Skip to main content

We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!

Full text of "A Land (1951)"

See other formats

5TT5r ^J%K. TTT^ STWr^FT 3R5T?»f^ 

Lai Bahadur Bhastric Aademy 
of Administration 


arwrft^ ?fw <xs3-*-^ ll'\ilO^ 

Accession No m.J.LOl..,. ( 

r\ A a 

Class No 9.1.4:.‘.X 


Book No HQjLO 

presented by 

Mr. I'j Mrs. Hamid 

“Southwood”i Mussoorie U. 


By the same author 



Jacquetta Hawkes 


With Drawings 



In Memory of 

First published in 1951 

by The Cresset Press Ltd., ii Fitzroy Square, London, W.i, 
and printed in Great Britain by IVestern Printing Services, Ltd., 

In this book I have used the findings of the two sciences of 
geology and archaeology for purposes altogether unscientific. I 
have tried to use them evocatively, and the image I have sought 
to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and 
present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece. I see 
modern men enjoying a unity with trilobitcs of a nature more 
deeply significant than anything at present understood in the 
processes of biological evolution; I see a land as much affected 
by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate 
and vegetation. 

The nature of tliis unity cannot be stated, for it remains always 
Just beyond the threshold of intellectual comprehension. It can 
only be shown as a blurred reflection through hints coming from 
many directions but always falling short of their objective. 

If in A Land I have often recalled my own childhood, it has not 
been so much from egotism as from a wish to steal that emotion 
which uses our own early memories for a realization of the most 
distant past. Certainly, for myself, in recalling the experiences 
of tliat remotci, unknown child, I find I am being led back far 
beyond the bounds of personality and of my own life. 

Precision in scientific detail is not, perhaps, of great importance 
for my purposes, but it has been my hope to avoid mistakes of 
known fact. In this endeavour I have been sympathetically 
supported by Dr. Kenneth Oakley who read my text at an early 
stage and did all that could be done to save me from geological 
error. I am also grateful to liim and to the British Museum of 
Natural History for permission to use die chronological table 
printed at the end of the volume. Again, it was Dr. Oakley who 
advised Maurice Wilson on the content of the maps. 

I have been exceptionally fortunate in assembling the pictures 
which are an intimate part of tliis book. I was delighted when 


Henry Moore agreed to do the coloured drawings. Plate A may 
be said to exemplify what I have written about his own work, 
while Plate B is more closely allied witli the text. In writing the 
passage about cfEgies lurking in the alabaster, I saw so clearly 
how Henry Moore could render the image that when, afterwards, 
he showed me his drawing I felt a most curious confusion 
between my anticipation and his fulfilment of it. I am grateful 
to Ben Nicholson for allowing me to use his Cornish landscape 
drawing, never before reproduced. Walter Bird devoted extra- 
ordinary enthusiasm as well as skill to his portrait studies of 
fossils; no woman sitter can ever have been photographed with 
more flattering admiration. He received every possible help 
from the staffs of the Natural History and Geological Museums 
at South Kensington. 

For permission to use copyright material, I am indebted to: 
Messrs. Faber and Faber, Ltd., for the extract from Norman 
Nicholson’s ‘River Duddon* on page 66, and for the extract 
from Robert Graves’s verses in The White Goddess on pages 
162-3; to Mrs. Frieda Lawrence and Messrs. William Heine- 
mann, Ltd., for the extract from D. H. Lawrence’s ‘Work’ on 
page 167; to tlie Oxford University Press for the extract from 
Gerard Manley Hopkins’s ‘Pied Beauty’ on page 144; and to 
Messrs. Routledge and Kegan Paul, Ltd., for Sidney Keyes’s 
poem ‘Wordswortli’ on page 238. 

It now remains for me to thank my son Nicolas for the thought 
and labour he put into die preparation of the Index. 

Fitzroy Road, 
London, N.W.i 
December 1950 

Jacquetta Hawkes 





Two Themes 









An Aside on Consciousness 



Creation of the Mountain Country 



Creation of the Lowlands 



Digression on Rocks, Soils, and Men 



Land and People 



Land and Machines 



Prospect of Britain 


Appendix: Geological Time-Scale 


Maps 1-4 

following 240 



List of Plates 

by Henry Moore 





CREATION facing pa^e 120 





Gnarled rocks far more ancient than Life 

facing page 48 



Life assumed a firm outline 




They grew like flowers on the floor of coral 





Upheavals in the Earth* s crust forced the 
rock beds into pleats 





A mud surface crackled by the fierce sun of 
Devonian times 





EnameLscaled fish 





‘ There must have been a horrible flapping 
and floundering . . 





A handsome pattern from the Coal Forests 



‘ The ammonites now coiled and swam in 
vast numbers* 





A cluster of bivalves once living in a warm, 
shallow Jurassic sea 



THE DINOSAUR Triccratops 
‘ This was the day of reptile imperialism* 




*Dy now the ammonites were assuming 
bizarre and decadent forms* 




*The hair4ike bones of the Cretaceous 
herring provoke aesthetic pleasure . . / 




Deciduous trees established the seasonal 



* Henry Moore identifies women with 
caverns, caverns with eye-sockets . . ,* 




An expression of Atlantic coast scenery by 

Ben Nicholson 



'Edmund and Rebecca had more love than 
is usual?* 




An expression of the East Anglian country- 
side by John Constable 



Scotchman’s stone, greta bridge 

Study of a Pennine river by John Sell 



List of Maps 

Maps numbered i to 4 arc grouped together, immediately 
^ following page 240 


275-250 million years ago 


1 70-140 million years ago 


75-45 million years ago 


I million to 10 thousand years ago 

These maps have been specially drawn by Maurice Wilson 


Two Themes 

W HEN I HAVE been working late on a sununer 
night, I like to go out and lie on the patch 
of grass in our back garden. This garden 
is a square of about twenty feet, so that 
to lie in it is like exposing oneself in an open box or 
tray. Not far below the topsoil is the London Clay which, 
as Primrose Hill, humps up conspicuously at the end of the 
road. The hmnus, formed by die accumulations first of 
forest and dien of meadow land, must once have been fertile 
enough, but nearly a century in a back garden has exhausted 
it. After their first season, plants flower no more, and are 
hard put to it each year even to make a decent show of 
leaves. The only exceptions are the lilies of the valley, 
possessors of some virtue that enables diem to draw their 
tremendous scent from the meanest sods. The sunless side 
of the garden has been abandoned to them, and now even 
in winter it is impossible to fork the earth dicre, so densely 
is it matted with the roots and pale nodes from which their 
flowers will rise. 

Another result of the impoverishment of the soil is diat 
the turf on which I lie is meagre and worn, quite without 
buoyancy. I would not have it otherwise, for tliis hard 
ground presses my flesh against my bones and makes me 
agreeably conscious of my body. In bed I can sleep, here I 
can rest awake. My eyes stray among the stars, or are netted 
by the fine silhouettes of the leaves immediately overhead 
and fi'om them passed on to the black lines of neighbouring 



chimney pots, misshapen and stoUd, yet always inexplicably 
poignant. Cats rustle in the creeper on the end wall. Some- 
times they jump down so softly that I do not hear them 
ahght and yet am aware of their presence in the garden with 
pie. Making their silken journeys through the dark, die 
cats seem as untamed, as remote, as the creatures that 
moved here before there were any houses in the Thames 

By night I have something of the same feeling about cats 
that I have always, and far more strongly, about birds: 
that perfectly formed wliile men were still brutal, they now 
represent the continued presence of the past. Once birds 
sang and flirted among the leaves while men, more helpless 
and less accomplished, skulked between the trunks below 
them. Now they linger in the few trees that men have left 
standing, or fit themselves into the chinks of the human 
world, into its church towers, lamp-posts and gutters. It is 
quite illogical that this emotion should be concentrated on 
birds; insects, for example, look, and are, more ancient. 
Perhaps it is evoked by the singing, wliistling and calUng 
that fell into millions of ancestral ears and there left images 
that we all inherit. The verses of medieval poets arc full of 
birds as though in them these stored memories had risen 
to the surface. Once in the spring I stood at the edge of 
some Norfolk plougliland listening to the mating calls of 
the plover that were tumbling ecstatically above the fields. 
The delicious effusions of turtle doves bubbled from a 
coppice at my back. It seemed to me that I had my ear to 
a great spiral shell and that these sounds rose from it. The 
shell was the vortex of time, and as the birds themselves 
took shape, species after species, so their distinctive songs 
were formed witliin tliem and had been spiralling up ever 



since. Now, at the very lip of the shell, they reached my 
present ear. 

As I lie looking at the stars with that blend of wonder 
and familiarity they alone can suggest, a barge turning the 
bend in Regent’s Park Canal hoots, a soft wedge of sound 
in the darkness that is cut across by the long rumble of a 
train drawing out from Euston Station. Touched by these 
sounds, like a snail I retract my thoughts from the stars and 
banish the picture of the earth and myself hanging among 
them. Instead I become conscious of the huge city spreading 
for miles on all sides, of the imiunierable fellow creatures 
stretched horizontally a few feet above the ground in their 
upstairs bedrooms, and of the railways, roads and canals 
r|^ed out towards all the extremities of Britain. The people 
sitting in those lighted carriages, even the bargee leaning 
sleepily on liis long tiller, are not individuals going to board 
meetings in Manchester or bringing in coal for London 
furnaces. For the instant they are figures moved about die 
map by unknown forces, as helpless as the shapes of history 
that can ht seen behind them, all irresistibly impelled to 
the achievement of this moment. 

The Thames flows widening towards the city it has 
created; the coastline of Britain encloses me within a shape 
as famihar as the constellations of the stars, and as con- 
sciously felt as the enclosing walls of this garden. The coast 
with its free, sweeping lines among die young formations 
of the east and south, and its intricate, embattled line of 
headland and bay among the ancient rocks of the west and 
north. The shape seems constant in its familiarity yet in 
fact is continuously changing. Even the stem white front 
diat Albion turns to the Continent is withdrawing at the 
rate of fifteen inches a year. I remember as a small child 



being terrified by a big fall of cliff at Hunstanton, and I am 
certain diat my terror was not so much due to the thought 
of being crushed — the fall had happened some days before, 
as by some inkling of impermanence. It was the same know- 
ledge, though in a sadder and less brutal form, that caxne 
stealing in from the submerged forest, also to be seen at 
Hunstanton, a dreary expanse of blackened tree stumps 
exposed at low tide. 

Always change, and yet at this moment, at every given 
moment, the outline of Britain, hke all outlines, has reality 
and significance. It is die endless problem of the philoso- 
phers; either they give process, energy, its due and neglect 
its formal limitations, or diey look only at forms and forget 
the irresistible power of change. The answers to all the 
great secrets are hidden somewhere in this thicket, those 
of ethics and aesthetics as well as of metaphysics. 

I know of no philosophy that can disprove that this land, 
having achieved this moment, was not always bound to 
achieve it, or that I, because I exist, was not always inevitably 
coming into existence. It is therefore as an integral part of 
the process that I claim to tell the story of the creation of 
what is at present known as Britain, a land which has its own 
unmistakable shape at this moment of time. 

There are many ways in which diis story can be told, just 
as a day in die hfe of this house behind me could be described 
in terms of its intake of food and fuel, and its corresponding 
output through drains, dustbins and chimneys, or in terms 
of die movement in space and time of its occupants, or of 
their emotional relationships. All these forms, even the 
most material, would be in some sense creations of the 
storyteller’s mind, and for this reason the counterpoint to 
the theme of the creation of a land shall be the growth of 



consciousness, its gradual concentration and intensification 
within the human skull. 

That consciousness has now reached a stage in its growth 
at which it is impelled to turn back to recollect happenings 
in its own past which it has, as it were, forgotten. In the 
history of thought, this is tlie age of history. Some forms 
of these lost memories lie in the imconscious strata of mind 
itself, these dark, rarely disturbed layers that have accumu- 
lated, as mould accumulates in a forest, through the shedding 
of inntmierable lives since the beginning of life. In its search 
for these forms consciousness is working, not always I 
think very sensitively, through its psychologists. I am 
certainly involved in their findings, but as narrator am not 
concerned with them. Instead I am concerned with other 
forms of memory, those recollections of the world and of 
man that are pursued on behalf of consciousness by geologists 
and archaeologists. 

Unfortunately they have not yet gone far enough to 
recall die formation of the planet Earth. In my own child- 
hood I drew a crude picture m my mind of a fragment flying 
off from the side of the sun, much as a piece of clay, carelessly 
handled, flies from a pot revolving on the potter’s wheel. 
Then diere were other, conflicting, pictures of the formation 
of planets by awe-inspiring cosmic road accidents, immense 
colhsions. It seems that both were fanciful. Yet as we have 
not yet remembered what did happen, I must begin with 
a white-hot young earth dropping into its place like a fly 
into an imseen four-dimensional cobweb, caught up in a 
dehcate tissue of forces where it assumed its own inevitable 
place, following the only path, the only orbit that was open 
to it. 

At first the new planet was hot enough to shine -with its 



own light, but so small a particle, lacking the nuclear energy 
that allows the sun to shine gloriously for billions of years 
at the expense only of some slight change in girth, could 
not keep its heat for very long. Its rays turned from white 
to red, then faded till Earth was lit only from widiout, 
from the sun round which it swung on an invisible thread. 
From that time night and day were established, the shadow 
of the Earth pointing into space like a huge black tent. 

Writing in 1949 I say that night and day were established. 
It is, I know, foolish to use these words for a time before 
consciousness had grown in men and had formed the image 
of night and day as the spinning globe sent them from 
sunlight under the cone of shadow and out again at dawn. 
I should wait to use tliese words until this procession of 
light and darkness had formed one of die most deep-set 
images in the mind of man. But the concept is now so 
familiar that I cannot express myself otherwise. 

I lie here and feel Eardi rustling through space, its rotun- 
dity between me and the sun, the shadow above me acting 
as a searchlight to reveal the stars whose light left them long 
before there were eyes on this planet to receive it. Now the 
two Httle globes of my eyes, unlit in the darkness, look up 
at their shining globes, and who shall say that we do not 
gaze at one another, affect one another? 

The first pallor of the rising moon dimming the stars 
over die chimneys reminds me of our modest satellite. I 
have known her for so long that she is an accepted part of 
the night, yet were I lying on Jupiter the sky would be 
radiant with ten moons, while on Saturn die rings would 
glisten day and night in a glorious bow. Now she has risen 
into sight, our one familiar moon. A beautiful world to 
our eyes, but cold and lifeless; without water or atmosphere 



she is a presage of what Earth might become. I should like 
to know whether in tliose icy rocks there are the fossils 
of former hfe, organisms that had gone some way in the 
process in which we are involved before they were cut 
short by an eternal drought. Do they lie in the rocks beneath 
the rays of a sun that once gave them life but now beats 
meaninglessly on a frigid landscape? 

I feel them at their employment, the sun, moon. Earth 
and all the rest, even while more intimately I am aware of 
Britain moving through the night which, like a candle 
extinguisher, has put out her ordinary Hfe. But if, which 
heaven forbid, I were at this moment to leap into a jet 
aeroplane we could catch up with day in a few hours, or 
could plunge into winter in a few days. It is difficult to 
remember for how great a part of history these thoughts 
and images would have appeared as the wildest delusions 
of a madman. We felt more secure when we believed our- 
selves to be standing on a plate imder the protective dome 
of heaven with day and night given for work and sleep. 
If we were less confident in Athens it was only by intuition 
and native courage. Now knowledge of material facts 
imposes humility upon us, willy niUy. Not that I would 
allow myself to repent the divine curiosity that has led 
to this knowledge. Like everyone else within the walls 
of these islands I am a European, and as a European com- 
mitted utterly to la volonte de la conscience et la volonti de la 
dicouverte. To enjoy, to create (which is to love) and to try 
to understand is all that at the moment I can see of duty. 
As for apparent material facts, I hope that in time we shall 
have come to know so many, and to have seen through so 
many, that they will no longer appear as important as they 
now do. 



At present, certainly, they are powerful; we have allowed 
them to become our masters. Yet, strangely, as I lie here in 
my ignorance under the stars, I am aware of awe but not 
of terror, of humihty but not of insignificance. 

Meanwhile the moon has drawn clear of the chimneys. 
How ungrateful we have been to call her inconstant when 
she is the only body in the heav^sns to have remained faithful 
to us in spite of our intelligence, the only body that still 
revolves about us. She is riding high and I must go to bed 
before first the Isle of Thanet noses out, and then London 
itself emerges on the other side of night. 



^^LTHOUGH I WAS bom into a world which, at 
/ ^ least in my part of it, had long made itself aware 
/ % that it was not a plate but a sphere, and that it 

-X wA-was the servant and not the master of the sun, 
I was not bom too late to absorb some misconceptions 
from my nurse. Indeed I kept an imquestioned belief in 
one of these errors until only the other day, and I am there- 
fore probably right to assume that many of my fellows 
bcheve in it still. I grew up with the simple image of Earth 
as a globe with an outer skin that was hard and cool but 
which grew progressively hotter and more wholly molten 
towards an unimaginably hot and molten centre. Tliis 
picture, I now learn, is incorrect. Enormously the greater 
part of the eardi’s sphere is very dense, perhaps an alloy 
of iron and nickel. It is this metallic mass which draws the 
compass needle so feithfuUy to the north and which made 
the iron filings scattered by our physics mistress on a sheet 
of foolscap dance so mysteriously and form radiate patterns 
over the northern end of the magnet lying below the paper. 
The core is enclosed in an outer layer about seven hundred 
miles thick which may have risen to the surfece when the 
earth was stiU fiery hot, as the dross rises when ores are 
smelted, or as scum rises on boiling jam. The dross layer as it 
formed further divided itself into two parts, a heavy lower 
one of basalt and an upper one which on cooling crystallized 
into granite. This granite froth formed the first land masses 
of the world. 



In deep mines men work naked and stream with sweat 
even when fer above snow is falling on their houses. A few 
miles further down and the heat would become insupport- 
able, deeper again and any shaft would begin to heave and 
dose in, for it would have reached a depth at which the 
rock substance was molten. Whatever the temperature at 
the heart of the globe may be, radio-activity in the lower 
parts of its outer layer produces heat that accumulates in 
its deep imprisonment until it reaches such intensity that 
the substance melts. Only a score of miles below the surface 
on which we walk the crust is molten, though probably 
held rigid by the pressure of the soUd rocks above. So the 
picture I formed in the nursery is not fundamentally mis- 
leading; we do in fact maintain our fragile Hves on a wafer 
balanced between a heUish morass and unUmited space. 
Even that wafer wears thin, a fact accounting for many 
of the most stirring events in the history of the earth. In 
spite of the claims of gravestone merchants, granite can be 
gradually worn away by the combined and almost contin- 
uous assault of sun and frost, wind and water, and Earth’s 
skin of granite was so worn. But what is weathered away 
is not lost, it must be redeposited elsewhere at a lower level, 
often under water. It was in this way that granite became 
the basic stuff of the sedimentary rocks that now form the 
greater part of our landscape. Since hfe began it has, of 
course, added immeasurably to these rocks, building up 
vast thicknesses from shells, corals, the minute bodies of 
foraminifera, chemical deposits provoked by algae, from the 
accumulation of forests and peat bogs. But it began with 
granite and the basalt that gouted up when the hard skin 
cracked. It is curious to think that granite and basalt, with 
litO, N,and COt, the water and early atmosphere of earth, 



have nude all the material paraphernalia with which man 
now surrounds himself, the skyscraper, the wine-glass, the 
vacuum cleaner, jewels, the mirror into which I look. And 
the woman who looks? Where did it come from, this 
being behind the eyes, this thing that asks? How has this 
been gleaned from a landscape of harsh rockandemptyseas? 

But to return to the wafer, and to the statement that it 
wears thin. The irregularities of die earth’s surface at the 
present time are shght enough — five miles up to the summit 
of the highest mountains, six miles down to the deepest 
sea-beds — ^less relatively than those of a smooth-skinned 
orange. Yet even this slight irregularity is always under 
attack by the powers already named, by sun and frost, -wind 
and water, which erode the heights, transporting them grain 
by grain and molecule by molecule to add them to the low 
ground or to fill die hollows of the sea. Could this go on 
long enough a dead level would result and we should all 
perforce be plain-dwellers. There are many agencies 
working towards the achievement of rest, of quiescence. 
Gravity itself does much, through landslides, through 
streams and torrents that tear and batter their beds and 
carry doivn grits, pebbles, stones and boulders as their 
waters rush back to sea level. Frost spHts, wind catches up 
grits and uses them like sandpaper to smooth and wear 
down exposed rock surfaces. The alternating heat and cold 
of day and night causes rock to swell and to retract until, 
weary of the process, its outer skin flakes off and is carried 
away by wind or water. To this last form of levelling down 
the geologists, who usually prefer such terms as isostatic 
readjustment, have given the pleasing name of onion 

So, during a period of denudation, the levelling goes on. 
B 17 


(Let it be remembered that the entire human episode has 
coincided with a very short stretch of a single geological 
period of denudation.) Everywhere the higher levels are 
being attacked, and their substance, broken into pieces 
ranging from dust grains to boulders, carried downwards. 
Most of the carrying is done by rivers that either redeposit 
the stuff along their lower reaches, fan it out in deltas, or 
sweep it right out to sea. It is the finer particles that reach the 
sea where they fall cloudily through the water and settle 
on the bottom, layer after layer slowly Iiardening into new 
rocks. New lands for old. There are two distinct kinds of 
sedimentary rocks. The rivers do not only carry these 
insoluble particles; some parts of the substance of the de- 
nuded lands are soluble and these are brought down in 
solution and then precipitated by chemical action. AU the 
many varieties of sandstones and clays are formed by simple 
deposition, the limestones and dolerites mainly by preci- 
pitation. Chalk, once believed to have been built entirely 
from the bodies of minute sea creatures, is now recognized 
as a chemical precipitate, probably, however, created by 
the action of living algae and certainly crowded with 
the minute but elegant forms of the foraminifera. I like to 
think of the seas where chalk was forming clouded with 
white as though ffom a snow storm — a fall that lasted for 
thirty million years and lay to a depth of a thousand feet. 

The charaaer of new rocks acciunulating on the sea 
bottom was naturally influenced by the character of the 
denuded lands that were their parents. Much of the New 
Red Sandstone still glowing warmly through Midland 
rain was laid down in great lakes or land-locked seas that 
covered central and northern England at a time when the 
surrounding lands were sun-baked deserts. The soft, bluish 



clay known as the Lias was accumulating when slow riven 
were meandering down from a country of lakes and forests 
or swampy plains. 

It is impossible to think of the blue Lias, of the mouldering 
cliffs of it along the Dorset coast, witliout thinking also 
of its fossils, of coiled ammonites, bullet-hke belemnites, 
the huge skeletons of ichthyosaurs, and so also of fossils 
in general. The young are now kinder than they were and 
are more tender towards old age, more aware perhaps with 
the growth of self-consciousness that it will come also to 
them. But once old men were often called fossils, a most 
misleading usage, for the chance that any of us, dying at 
however advanced an age, having been given decent 
burial, -will be fossiUzed is remote indeed. Sailors, perhaps, 
have the strongest hope. The true fossil is a creature of the 
sedimentary rocks, and the privilege of fossiUzation was 
given erratically, incalculably. Sometimes whole popu- 
lations of molluscs or corals would be fossihzed and their 
bodies build up thick beds of rock; sometimes only one 
in millions would gam this form of immortahty in death. 

In the right conditions the dead body of any organism, 
however ffail, even dchcate leaves, stems, fronds, might 
sink down to the sea bottom, or be held in swamps or the 
mud of rivers and there be petrified in the finest perfection 
of detail. When we come upon them again it seems as though 
time has revealed itself in a different dimension, as though 
the particles that smothered and preserved them were not 
grains of matter in space, but passing minutes; that these 
are infinitesimal lives 'fiist fixed in time’. 

So, layer upon layer, all the sedimentary rocks have been 
laid down, sometimes attaining thousands of feet in thick- 
ness — the limestones and sandstones, the chalk and clajrs 



die future of the earth’s surface, was the production of 
minerals. Liquids and gases released by the heat escaped 
into surrounding fissures to form alluring metallic veins. 
The ancient furnace of the granite masses of Devon and 
Cornwall poured out the tin ore which was to draw men 
there, entice them to sink shafts and drive galleries until 
at last the countryside was left derelict with the elusive 
but powerful taint, the sense of degradation, that hangs 
about it to-day. Sometimes, rarely, the fissures were filled 
with gold. 

The history of the earth’s crust, then, has a rhythm. 
Denudation weakens it, the mountains arc rucked up and 
the molten layer below forces itself towards the surface, 
then the storm dies away and denudation begins again. 
If the movement could be speeded up, as in a cinematograph, 
we should see a rise and fall as though of breathing: 

The bosom of the landscape lifts and falls 
With its own leaden tide. 

As will appear in greater detail in a later chapter, diere 
have been three main periods of mountain-building since 
Cambrian times; how many before can never be recalled. 
About three hundred and fifty million years ago the 
Caledonian uphcavel raised the austere and venerable high- 
lands of Wales, the Lake District and Scotland — folds that 
extended as far as Norwegian ranges which now have an 
even more hoary look than our own. The highlands known 
to men are no more than the worn stumps of mountains 
once at least as high, angular and snow-covered as the Alps. 
The building of mountains can been seen as a magnification 
of what happens when a child digs a stout wooden spade into 
hard sand. The spade sets up waves which break in a series 



of parallel ridges. It is easy to see how in the Caledonian 
folding these ridges ran south-west to nordi-east, the line 
being clearly set by the Great Glen. The Armorican folding 
followed some hundred miUion years later; this time the 
waves struck the resistant mass of the Caledonian moimtains 
and although the main line of their ridges broke east and 
west, forming the highlands of Devon and Cornwall, the 
South Welsh mountains and the Mercian Heights, the 
resistance they met caused the north-south folds marked 
by the Pennines and the Malvern Hills. 

The last of the three great mountain-building storms 
was the Alpine that raised what is at present the greatest 
upward irregularity on the surface of the planet. The back- 
bone of the old world that runs from the Alps to the 
Himalayas with its tremendous culmination in Everest, 
is so lofty, so sharp, in its peaks only because it is young and 
has not yet yielded to the forces that in time will wear it 
down. Britain lay on the margin of the Alpine storm and 
was stirred only by slight ripples that tipped up some chalk 
in the south of England and, at their outmost limits, so 
cracked the old rocks of the highlands diat molten magma 
broke through in countless places, most freely in western 
Scotland and Ulster. 

Because they have no dangerous young moimtains, 
Enghshmen migrate in numbers to the Alps. Those who 
believe exclusively in the power of economic forces should 
think how many things men will pursue in their lands 
beside material products. They will move in their thousands 
for the sake of wide views and sandy beaches, for singularity 
and danger. 

In the whole of Europe there remain only four active 
volcanoes, Vesuvius, Etna, Mount Hekla and StrombolL 



Even theirs is the mild activity of late middle age: every few 
yean a temporary increase in the steam that hangs over them, 
a redder glow by night and some gouts of lava. These are 
the last feeble throes of the Alpine convulsion. Persistent 
hints of impermanence. We live in a world made seemingly 
secure by the four walls of our houses, the artificiality 
of our cities and by the four walls of habit. Volcanoes 
speak of insecurity, of our participation in process. They are 
openings not any longer into a properly appointed hell, 
but into an equally alarming abysm of thought. 

Although the Caledonian and Armorican foldings have 
left us some wild country and tlic possibility of solitude, 
Britain, without volcanoes or Alps or forests, is in general 
a gentle and domesticated land that seems to be wholly 
under our control. Yet it is not really controlled. Lie awake 
at night even in our composed Britain and think how the 
land about you is changing every hour, as surely as your 
own body and as irresistibly. Here small avalanches arc 
spilling down cliffs, there miniature land spits are drawing 
clear of the sea, everywhere the hills are being attacked and 
worn away. If ears were keen enough, we should be able 
to hear the rustle of perpetual movement, a stirring of the 
silence not much greater than that made by the petal of a 
flower as it opens or closes. 

‘We are fortunately living in one of the quiet periods 
of the earth’s history ’ — z well known geographer begins 
a chapter with a nonchalance that suggests that if St. Paul’s 
were suddenly raised ten thousand feet into the air we could 
all go tobogganing down the Strand. It is certainly true 
that the present mild processes of change, the ceaseless 
weathering, the occasional smothering of a Neapolitan 
village, or the appearance of a new volcano in Mexico, is 



like a windless pond beside an Atlantic gale when compared 
with the majestic cataclysms that have already happened 
and are likely to happen again. 

If man achieves the miracle of continuing his scientific 
development and his existence until the end of this ‘quiet 
period’ it is fascinating to imagine what Laputan devices 
he will perfect to save his skin. I am going further still on 
this excursion. Often when I lie in the garden at night I see 
meteors slide across the sky, drawing their brief intensity 
of silence behind them. In their silence and sudden extinction 
they recall fireflies in a Mediterranean evening; but while 
the movement of die insects appears to be controlled and 
deliberate, die shooting stars are plainly caught up in an 
irresistible velocity that is the cause ahke of their brilliance 
and its extinction. 

Seeing them I think of a case in the Geological Museum 
at South Kensington. It contains many jagged lumps of 
matter, the exceptional, the fortunate fragments of shooting 
stars which have survived their journey and the friction of 
our atmosphere and have succeeded in embedding them- 
selves in this planet. Some of the lumps have been cut and 
polished to show their structure — crystalline or otherwise. 
The labels in the case explain that there are three kinds of 
meteorite, those composed of almost pure iron, those that 
are of iron and stone mixed, and a group formed of almost 
pure stone. These three substances correspond to the central 
core and the inner and outer crusts of our own earth. This 
correspondence is not surprising for the universe is sub- 
stantially homogeneous, and shooting stars are chips from 
globes very much like our own. They arc, as the label in 
the Science Museum soberly states, ‘fragments of former 




G eologists and archaeologists, those in- 
struments of consciousness who are engaged 
in reawakening the memory of the world, 
have one guiding principle for dieir work. It 
is called the Law of Stratification, but it is as simple as 
falling downstairs — and, indeed, resembles it in that both 
are inevitable results of the working of gravity. 

If instead of one apple falling on the head of Sir Isaac 
Newton a heavenly orchard had let tumble a rain of fruit, 
one of the greatest of men would have been overwhelmed 
and then buried. Anyone examining the situation after- 
wards in a properly scientific spirit, clearing the apples 
layer by layer, would be able to deduce certain facts. He 
would be able to prove that the man was there before the 
apples. Furthermore, that the blushing Beauty of Bath 
found immediately over and round Sir Isaac fell longer ago 
than the small swarthy russets that lay above them. If, on 
top of all this, snow had fallen, then the observer, even if he 
came from Mars where they are not famiUar with these 
things, would know that apple time came before snow time. 
Relative ages are not enough, the observer would want 
an absolute date, and that is where Sir Isaac comes in again. 
An examination of his clothes, the long-skirted coat, the 
loose breeches and the neghgoit cut of his linen, the long, 
square-toed shoes pointing so forlornly up to the sky, would 
date the mail to the seventeenth century. Here would be a 
clue to the age of the apples and snow. 



The apples and snowflakes of this whimsical analogy are 
the equivalent of the falling grains that compose sedimentary 
rocks, and the whole of the great Law of Soratification 
means no more than this — that the Beauty of Bath must be 
older than the russets lying above them. Nor is Sir Isaac 
Newton a mere red herring, although he may be said to 
represent a preserved marine creature of some kind. He 
represents a fossil, and fossils are necessary to the study of 
stratification as we realized only a little more than a century 
ago. The realization was due to William Smith, the ‘Father 
of Stratigraphy’, who, as a civil engineer, engaged chiefly 
in canal construction, had rare opportunities for observing 
the relation between the strata through which these new 
cuttings were driven. Even before Smith’s day, John Strange 
had been impressed by the persistence of the oyster-like 
shell, Gryphaea, in the blue clay occuring at the foot of the 
Cotswolds and known as the Lias. But it was William 
Smidi who first enunciated the principle so important to 
stratigraphy that the strata may he identified by the fossils they 
contain. Could any principle be more monumentally simple? 
The deposition of the Beauty of Bath may be dated by 
Sir Isaac Newton’s clothes, the Lias by the cut of the shell 
worn by the mollusc Gryphaea, the successive horizons of 
the whole Jurassic system by the changing fashions prevalent 
among the ammonites. 

This use of our greatest physicist is not merely whim- 
sical or fantastic. For one thing he was related to Gryphaea: 
they shared common ancestors. Those first pricks of con- 
sdouness of organisms too amorphous to survive in the 
memory of the rocks, spongy masses of life, were ancestral 
to the mind of the great genius. They were the sources of 
his being as surely as was the gilled brat that had grown 



in his mother’s womb before he was ejected into the world 
a howling, matter-of-fact baby with gills lost and genius 
not yet formed. 

A second legitimate comparison which can be drawn 
between Sir Isaac Newton and a fossil is provided by his 
clothes. Anyone who has heard of a geologist is likely also 
to have heard of an ammonite, and most people are acquain- 
ted with their decorative spiral shapes. They may have seen 
huge ones ranged along tlie top of a wall: they may as 
small children have fingered cut and polished specimens in 
use as paper-weights on their grandfather’s desk, or have 
peeped at the very smallest varieties lying on cotton-wool 
in a curio drawer. Ammonites, a temporarily successful 
form of life that swarmed in die Jurassic and Cretaceous 
seas, are now extinct. Their nearest surviving relative is 
die nautilus that still sails through the waters of die Pacific : 

Learn of the Little Nautilus to sail. 

Spread the thin oar and catch the driving gale. 

These creatures always occupy the last and largest compart- 
ment of their shells, all other divisions of the spirals being 
earlier living-rooms outgrown and sealed off by the late 
occupant behind a thin, nacreous partition. Thus the nautilus 
and the ammonites live with the whole course of their 
physical existence coiled behind them and when they die 
leave these spiral monuments to brief and obscure lives. 

During the period when they were the most successful 
of die smaller sea creatures, many species of ammonite, 
each with a differendy designed shell, rose to pre-eminence 
and disappeared. Some began to protect their shells with 
bosses and spines, perhaps to make themselves unpalatable 
to the vast reptiles and sharks that grazed among them on 



the sea bottom. But with certain species this process of 
evolution ran amok, the protective devices became so 
elaborate, so cumbrous, that the tender inhabitants of diesc 
fortresses could no longer support the burden and were 
overwhelmed by other and more adaptable rivals. There 
is some merciless force in evolution that may cause trends, 
once they have begun, to become excessive and at last 
pathological, the unfortunate species concerned being 
utterly helpless and unable to check their racial suicide. 
There was for example Synthetoceras, an early species of 
deer which, in addition to a pair of normally placed antlers, 
developed an immense forked horn growing vertically 
from its delicate nose. The creature must have looked more 
ridiculous than Munchausen’s stag with a cherry tree 
sprouting from its forehead; it is not surprising that it 
found life intolerable and rapidly became extinct. 

The analogy with human fashion is a reasonable one. 
While it is strongest for the fifteenth-century knights 
whose plate armour would certainly have led to their rapid 
extinction had they not lived in the aquarium of the feudal 
system, the history of the ammonites can be compared 
with that of any fashion — those inexplicable trends that 
culminate in some cuWc-sac of fantasy and must be sup- 
planted by a fresh ideal. 

The fact really contributing to die theoretical argument 
is that just as the costume expert could tell instantly in which 
decade the figure (who happened to be Sir Isaac Newton) 
had been entombed in apples, so the geologist could recog- 
nize each species of ammonite preserved in the Lias and 
date it within some five million years. 

Each alike illustrates the uniqueness of every moment, 
life’s continuous burning of boats. Every layer of the sedi- 



mentary rocks that has formed since life began, each layer 
of rubbish accumulated since man became an artificer, can 
be distinguished through this extraordinary fact — that 
existence is never for two moments the same. The land on 
which we live, the seas by which we are surrounded, are 
never still; the forms of insects, fish, reptiles, birds and 
animals arein constant just as individual fife is inconstant. 
Every Uving creature among us has taken an irrevocable 
step between the beginning of this sentence and its end. 
The way in which men make buttons, build houses, paint 
pictures or judge of virtue is never the same between John 
and Johnson. 

So by diversity and process the geologist and archaeo- 
logist are enabled to do their work, to distinguish each 
pecuUar instant of time. Certainly, since die days of John 
Strange and William Smith an astonisliing amount of this 
work of recollection has been achieved. The layers of rock 
that have formed, grain by grain, since Cambrian times have 
been shown to reach a total thickness of four hundred 
thousand feet, and although this vast accumulation is never 
found all together in one place the fossil labels allow every 
layer to be recognized wherever it may occur. As most 
rocks are formed on lake or sea floors or by imusual wind 
conditions, it is obvious that while one layer is being laid 
down another is being denuded, while a third may remain 
unchanged. This differential formation is one of the causes 
that make it hard to arrange the strata ncady hke the num- 
bered pages of a book. Anodicr is the disturbance caused 
by mountain building when huge slabs of earlier rocks may 
be raised and thrown down again on top of their true 
successors. Again, extreme denudation may be confusing. 
An ignorant man walking in the Sussex Weald and looking 



at the chalk downs might be expected to think they were 
more ancient than the sands below his feet, yet in feet the 
chalk of the North and South Downs would once have met 
over his head in a lofty dome that has been washed away 
to expose its base of sands and clays. Finally, pressure may 
cause faulting, that is to say a vertical or nearly vertical 
split through many layers of rock wliich allows the two sides 
to slip differentially. The whole prosperous Lowlands of 
Scotland are no more than a block which has shppcd down 
between two gigantic faults, one along the southern edge 
of the Highlands, the other along the northern edge of 
the Cheviots. 

After differential formation, overlaying, denudation and 
faulting, it is not easy to place the strata in sequence, to be 
certain that a deposit in Dorset is of the same age as another 
in Yorkshire. Geologists must match fossils as carefully 
and laboriously as a dressmaker matches stuffs. 

Nevertheless the rapidly mounting self-consciousness 
of the world, by taking possession of ardent young men and 
by keeping them possessed until they die elderly and revered 
F.R.S.S, F.S.A.s, and F.G.S.S, has already, as I have shown, 
recovered a great deal from its long period of unconscious- 
ness. These possessed individuals with their hammers and 
spades and their curiosity have recalled the history that is 
summarized in the table at the end of this book. I have 
included this table chiefly in order to save a more arduous 
explanation in the text, but also further to obscure the 
question as to whether this is, or is not, a work of science. 

One striking feature of the table is the number of names 
of English or Welsh origin that appears in it. Because 
during the nineteenth century that small part of the earth’s 
crust known to us as the British Isles supported an unpre- 



cedented ferment of thought and activity, it won many 
distinctions which to the children of future generations 
may well seem strange. 

It fell to the Victorians to survey the welter of time and 
space and to decide to discipline it, to give it outlines and 
pin down the resulting shapes Avith labels bearing names 
and numbers. Through dieir force and conviction, their 
abihty to create ideal forms in the flux of process, vast 
fragments of ‘time’ arc, for as long as Western civihzation 
endures, known to die rest of mankind by names formed 
by our tongues for our land. 

There are pre-Cambrian and Cambrian, labels for those 
inconceivably remote ages when life was organizing itself 
from its first vague essays into the already shapely and 
dehcate creatures that swarmed in the silence of Cambrian 
seas. The name derives from Cambria, the word used by 
our seventeenth-century antiquaries as a romantic tide for 
Wales. The Silures and Ordovices were the Celtic tribes 
dominant in Wales at die end of the Iron Age who died 
in diousands among the mountains they strove to defend 
against the Roman armies. Their hands and feet must have 
been familiar with the detail of the rocks over which they 
fought, and it is suitable that their names should have passed 
into those of the periods when the rocks were formed — 
the Ordovician and Silurian. As it happened, the first of 
these names was not estabhshed without a struggle. Those 
gready possessed men, the geologists Henry Sedgewick 
and Roderick Murchison, fought until death over the 
labelling of certain Welsh rocks which one wished to call 
Upper Cambrian and the odier Lower Silurian. It was only 
after the bodies of both these men, abandoned by con- 
sciousness, were simple chemistry once more, that it was 



agreed by tlieir successsors to recognize the disputed rocks 
as a new division, and to give it a name, the Ordovician, 
which, as one of them said, commemorated the ‘last and 
most valiant of the old Cambrian tribes’. 

The following age has the name of a most English county. 
Devon is now always to be linked with die formations in 
which the first vertebrate fishes appear, those slender 
beginnings of our own manly spines. The Permian cele- 
brates discoveries made by Murchison, even though he made 
them outside his own country, while Carboniferous and 
Cretaceous refer to English coal and Enghsh chalk. Even 
for the Tertiary era when the character of the geological 
names changes sharply, the Victorians are still in command. 
Eocene, Oligocene and the rest were names devised by 
Charles Lyell in whose mind diey took shape as a result of 
the classical education given him by Victorian England. 
So a soimd, ‘eos’, uttered by Greeks at the sight of Medi- 
terranean dawns, was carried in memory to be appUed to 
some English clays and sands and die age which they 
represent — the early morning of the mammals. 

A chapter on method has ended as a narrative, for the 
subject of study and the study have shown themselves to 
be one. 



An Aside on Consciousness 

P ROUST HOLDS HIMSELF like a naked nerve at 
the centre of a trembling web of remembered 
consciousness. No sound or smell or physical de- 
tail of his surroundings escapes him; his awareness 
of the complexity of emotion, thought and association in 
himself and in others is almost too sensitive to be endured. 

Newton and Einstein drive their minds into regions un- 
touched by experience; Mozart appears as a man bom 
without some obstruction that prevents ordinary people 
from communicating witli a stupendous world of under- 
standing, All of them represent the furthest achievements of 
an evolutionary process which relates them to the chemical 
constituents of the planet. 

It has been thought that solar radiation acting upon sea 
water first enabled matter to reproduce itself and hfe thus 
to begin. Now it seems that drying mud is a more likely 
cradle. I had always imagined that the earliest essays in life 
would be microscopically small, but, on the contrary, it 
was probably in quite large masses of matter that repro- 
duction began. Whatever the size of these first pieces of 
life, whether they preferred sea water or mud, nothing but 
some fifteen hundred million years separate them from 
their outcome in Proust. They have grown also into butter- 
flies, into the elaborate lobster and the simple worm. But 
the dominant, the significant process in those millions of 
years has been the heightening of consciousness. It remains 
the only visible opening for significant development in 



the future. Among the earliest creatures known from die 
Cambrian rocks are the trilobites, a large family of primitive 
crustaceans, which for an immense span of time were the 
aristocrats of hfe. To-day the lobster is a very fine fellow 
whether he promenades the sea-floor in flashing blue or lies 
pink and opulent in an entree dish; whether he eats men 
under water or is eaten by them in their world of air. But 
he has gone too far. Imprisoned in his splendid, his fantastic 
external skeleton he has no expanding future. If man leaves 
die feast he will not rise from the dish to make himself 
master of some new region of hfe. It is no better with the 
birds. Though in their isolation the wrens of St. Edlda may 
have grown longer tails than the wrens of the mainland, 
they cannot achieve anything much more significant. The 
birds burnt all their boats when they left the ground; so it 
has been with all our fellow creatures — they have committed 
themselves too far. The gazelle is given over to fleetness, 
die rhinoceros to strength, the giraffe, diough he can reach 
the topmost leaves, already looks impossible. 

It seems, although certainly it is only we in our ignorance 
who say so, that our minds alone arc free to go forward 
to something significandy new. There may be a time when 
all school teachers can expect to have sitting before diem 
children of the capacities of Newton and Einstein, Mozart 
and Proust, while the men of genius move in a country 
far beyond our present guessing. There may be, or it may 
prove that brain development must be likened to that of 
the horn of Synthetoceras. 

It has been a divenc yet constant process, this heightening 
of consciousness. I shall not attempt to interpret the exper- 
iences of the first cells when they suficred fission, but will 
begin with the trilobites that represented the most complex 



and shapely form life had achieved by the end of Cambrian 
times. To secure food was the first duty of consciousness, 
and the trilobitcs, some of which had as many as three eyes 
of a rough and ready sort, were sufficiently aware of matter 
looming towards them through the water to move in pursuit. 
For the first time an image, however blurred, was being 
received by a hving organism. 

This most vital faculty was advanced by the fishes who 
must have seen a dim, flat world but one that contained 
distinct shapes, and shapes that were related to one another. 
When the reptiles left the water hfc in the air was a tremen- 
dous stimulus towards the refinement of the senses. Diplo- 
docus was ninety feet long and had a brain the size of a small 
kitten’s; nevertheless the brain was there in the heavy skull 
and, helped out by a smaller nerve centre above the hips, 
controlled the vast, straggling nervous system. The toed 
feet could feel the ground, be aware of the different texture 
of sand, wet stone or slime as they waded into die water. The 
hdless eyes as they swung at the end of a neck as long as a 
crane recorded bright, meaningless pictures of lagoons and 
fern trees. The nose, too, was sensitive, and made its own 
arrangement of tlic smells coming from mud, from crushed 
vegetation and from animals dead and living. 

It was among the early reptiles that consciousness gained a 
new incentive and a tremendous new agency for its own per- 
fection. For the first time the male had to seek and take the 
female. Perhaps it is too gross, too crude a piece of sensation- 
alism, to claim for those reptilian couplings, all slime or scale, 
some part in the creation of Heloise and Abelard, yet it is 
the truth. There is something more here than sexual selection, 
immensely powerful as tliat has been in the evolution of 
life. The forces of attraction and repulsion, of mutuality, 



in all their forms, have acted like some universal, instinctive 
artistic genius, creating all that is most highly formed, most 
brilliantly coloured in the world : all that is furthest from 
the drab equality of chaos. Insects have intensified the colours 
of flowers, fighting has set delicate antlers on the stag, court- 
ship has given birds dicir brightest plumage. Love refines 
and sharpens human personality and provokes poetry 
and music. 

Before the great reptiles had disappeared, the mammals 
were there widi dicir keener senses and their far more com- 
plex brains. They experienced fear and anger, and, beyond 
reptilian sex, they knew family life. Even die nest of a 
tree shrew can do much to incubate consciousness. Before 
long the small tarsier appeared widi his forward-looking 
eyes — eyes so disproportionately large that he seems still 
startled by the stereoscopic vision that made the seen world 
one and gave it a third dimension. The nut was seen to be 
plump, the receding glade asked to be explored. 

And so to apes and men. A long-drawn efibrt to correlate 
hand and eye and brain in non-instinctive movement; a 
complication of emotion tending towards refinements of 
love and liate; a widening separation of the self from its 
surroundings. Then, suddenly, tlie bison painted on the 
cave wall. What has happened since then but fifty thousand 
years of the accumulation of experience and an erratic but 
pitiless sharpening of thought and feeling? 

This gadiering up of consciousness during time can be 
followed also through space. It stretches up through time 
from the placid mass of cells on the drying mud, through 
reptiles browsing on the branches of trees and the little 
mammals peeping on them through the leaves, up to Proust 
in his exquisite, agonizing web. So, too, at this one moment 



of time I can feel consciousness stretching from the crystal- 
line virus that blights tomato plants, through fish, reptiles 
and mammals to the minds of men. Indeed, it is obviously 
only an expedient convention to stop with the forms of 
life that are earliest in time, or the simplest in space. Con- 
sciousness must surely be traced back to the rocks — the 
rocks which have been here since life began and so make 
a meeting place for the roots of life in time and space, the 
earliest and the simplest. Why, indeed, stop with this planet? 
Even if nothing like the human psyche and intellect have 
developed elsewhere, it is necessary in an indivisible uni- 
verse to believe that the principle of consciousness must 
extend everywhere. Even now I imagine that I can* feel all 
the particles of the universe nourishing my consciousness 
just as my consciousness informs all the particles of the 

At this my own flesh should be clamouring. Why go 
so far afield when here in the ball of your thumb, in the 
muscle of your thigh, is unconscious life. Every cell that 
makes tliis ‘me’ has its individual life, and if skilfully trans- 
planted to another medium can grow and multiply — ^might 
even be made to outlive ‘me’. Similarly I have rehearsed 
tlic story in time. Starting from a single cell, I passed one 
period of my Ufe with gill slits inherited from my fishy 
ancestry, then for a few weeks sported a tail and was hard 
to distinguish from an unborn tree shrew. The protest of 
the flesh is reasonable. Why think of viruses or pre-Cambrian 
organisms when inside this deUcate membrane of my skin, 
this outhne of an individual, I carry the whole history of 
hfe. I am a community of countless units, from cells to 
complex organs, living unconscious lives, yet supporting as 
their king the invisible power that is enthroned in the brain. 



As in the physical being the foetus recapitulates episodes 
in the history of Ufe, so each individual consciousness, that 
most fleeting manifestation, carries beneath it, far out of 
reach of normal memory, episodes in the history of con- 
sciousness back to its remotest origins. 

Because mind, like the matter in which it is immanent, 
seeks to continue itself, it suffers the strange pangs of love, 
love which can serve its end in two ways. Eidier it leads 
mind to strive for union with another and so to continue its 
existence in a new creature, or excites it to creative activity 
of all kinds, and above all to project itself through the arts. 
Whereas the new physical creamre represents die pro- 
longation of consciousness in die stream of time, these 
projections — pictures, poems, symphonies — arc the per- 
petuation of a phase of consciousness motionless within the 
stream. Fossils of the psyche. So might a dinosaur either lay 
its leathery eggs and so secure posterity, or allow its own 
dying body to roll down to the sea bed to be preserved 
through all time. 

We have become very conscious of the individual being, 
apparently neady enclosed by its covering of skin, recog- 
nizable as ‘me’, a being to be disliked or desired but certainly 
a distinct and particular entity. It is the natural tendency 
of our mode of perception. Even a fire we contrive to see 
as a separate thing radicr diaii as a chemical process affecting 
a wide area round the visible flames and smoke. A human 
being is hardly more cut off from its surroundings than is 
a naked fire. It is continuously exuding gas and moisture 
and consuming other gas; a variety of waves can pass 
through a wall, through air and through a human body 
almost without interruption. It seems that the mind itself 
can issue waves, or something akin to them, that can pene- 



tratc and be received by other minds. Every being is united 
both inwardly and outwardly with the beginning of life 
in time and with the simplest forms of contemporary Hfe. 
‘Me’ is a fiction, though a convenient fiction and one of 
significance to the consciousness of which I am the tem- 
porary home. 

I think that we arc returning to an awareness of our unity 
with our surroundings, but an awareness of a much more 
exalted kind tlian anything that has existed before. The 
primitive tribesman, to go no further back than the early 
days of our own species, was still so deeply sunk in nature 
that he hardly distinguished himself from his environment 
or from his fellows. This sense of oneness shows itself in 
totemism and in many forms of magic. In the identification 
of the name or image with the living person ; in summoning 
rain by spitting water, or in the behef that a man by leaping 
into the air can make the coni grow tall. In this, just as in 
the foetal gills, the child repeats the development of the 
species, he does not distinguish — ‘Tis the eye of childhood 
that fears a painted devil’. 

It is in this natural unity that the savage may truly be 
said to be happy. Certainly civilization must always destroy 
it. In urban, literate surroundings self-consciousness becomes 
a sharp knife cutting man away from his matrix. It was 
early sharpened among the Greeks, but the collapse of the 
classical world before Christianity and tribal barbarism 
brought a respite. For another thousand years the mind of 
an agricultural society was rocked by the comfttrting 
seasonal rhythm. 

If the East threw the knife away, the West retrieved it. 
After die Renaissance its possession became the mark of 
Western civilization — la volonti de conscience et la volonte de 



J^couverte. It was not hard to bear, indeed it could be exhil- 
arating, for man to feel isolated if he also felt important 
in his isolation. But, needlessly perhaps, man allowed himself 
to be dwarfed by his own discoveries, by his recollection 
of evolutionary processes and of the humble place of the 
earth in the material universe. He was left not merely 
naked and lonely, but apparently insignificant. Perhaps 
this condition reached its most terrible pitch of sensitivity 
in the present century with those who, like Proust, accepted 
it. and those who, like D. H. Lawrence, tried to retreat. 
Even for the mass of the people for whom the knife was not 
so finely sharpened, the god who died and was resurrected 
in the spring had deserted them. 

Yet I believe that those who have had the courage to 
suffer la volonte k conscience et la volonte kiecomrte are now 
already half assuaged. Mind, which at first denied men their 
instinctive sense of wholeness, is at last returning such a 
sense, but on its own mental level. Consciousness is melting 
us all down together again—earth, air, fire and water, 
past and future, lobsters, butterflies, meteors, and men. 
As for me, what other force has driven me to attempt this 


Creation of the Mountain Country 

T here are nature films that show the opening 
of a flower, an iris perhaps, in as short a time as 
it takes a woman to get out of bed. I remember, 
too, seeing a French film in which the time was 
so much hastened that the evening hour passed in a minute 
and darkness fell visibly. What the camera can be made to 
do so smoothly and with so little effort, I in this chapter 
must attempt, clumsily, widi words; I must try to niake a 
few thousand of them show the fluctuations in die earth’s 
crust, the coming and going of the species that have had 
their day of world domination. 

I have already suggested that the processes of mountain 
building and denudation were like breathing, a regular 
rise and fall. This rhythm exists, and is significant, but 
with it go the smaller and erratic movements of die crust 
and the resulting interplay of land and sea. Running 
through the whole composition, acutely sensitive to all 
its fluctuations, life is like a tunc that grows louder and 

If it proves to be possible, this history should be described 
in such a way that it can be seen as one continuous move- 
ment and not as a series of stills such as are shown in geo- 
logical text-books. 

If only some powerful cin^-caniera could long ago have 
been set up on the moon: by running through its record 
at tremendous speed it would be possible to apprehend the 
movements of land and sea and the evolution of life as 



the continuous processes which in fact they arc. Towards 
the end of the last available reel the jaws of Scotland, the 
snouted face of Wales, the elegant Cornish toe, stumpy 
Kent and the bald head of Norfolk would be seen taking 
shape among the waves. Then, as the last few feet ran out 
with cities spreading, roads and railways stretching a net 
over this transient fragment of land, and millions of tiny 
figures flowing like the corpuscles of a blood stream, we 
should be left in eager anxiety as to what was to happen 
next in this flux of events. That is how our world should 
appear. It is only the pathetic shortness of human life diat 
gives each individual a sense of the permanence of his back- 
ground. The land we all walk upon has been under the sea 
many times, and it will be submerged again. 

There has been no recording camera, and the liistory has 
to be told in words that rely on rocks, fossils, relics and the 
heroic but puny efforts of a few men. It must not limit 
itself to events alone; the senses must be fed — for surely 
Berkeley will not stir if we recall the blueness of gentians, 
the redness of deserts, the shadows of reptiles among cycad 
trees that had passed before our senses were there to exper- 
ience them? Perhaps it is impossible for it to be success- 
ful. It will demand a continual whipping of the vitality 
to keep the words as true expressions of consciousness, to 
prevent them from turning into some dead march of the 

In the heart of the hunting shires, at Chamwood Forest 
in Leicestershire, cutting through the sandstones and marls 
of Triassic times, the remains of pre-Cambrian rocks rise 
in shattered ridges. They are hard, many of them with the 
intense hardness of quartzite, and without memory of life. 
These most ancient rocks arc exposed again, and more 



boldly, ill the Highlands, along the western fringes of 
Scotland and in the Western Isles. Among the oldest of all 
are the gneisses of the Outer Hebrides, rocks whose immense 
experience of the world has made them hard, but exqui- 
sitely fine-grained. It is quite useless to try to reconstruct 
the map of pre-Cambrian times, to attempt to interpret 
rocks that have suffered crushing, bending, breaking and 
violent heat; have had molten granite thrust against them 
from below and thousands of feet of deposit laid on them 
from above. There are signs of periods of mountain building 
and of remote Ice Ages, but they are dim and worn by the 
passage of time, and many text-books, with proper cautious- 
ness, begin witli the Cambrian Age. Before following their 
example, I want to capture something of the nature of that 
young world. 

The young world must have had a most ancient aspect. 
In our old one, so rich with experience, what could be more 
youthful than England in April? It has taken three thousand 
milhon years to create that youthfuhiess, those fierce young 
buds and frail eggs, greenness that seems to cry aloud, diose 
songs in the throats of birds and hope in the heart of man. 
The resurrection of the spring god. The young world was 
without spring; it knew nothing beyond rock and water. 
There was the colour of open skies and of sunrise and sunset, 
but when the sky was overcast the landscape was sombre 
beyond our present comprehension. Colour had not as yet 
been concentrated in leaves, petals, feathers, shells. The 
only sounds came from the movement of water, whether 
of rain or streams or waves, from thunder, and from wind 
sweeping across rocL At long intervals this passivity was 
convulsed by erupting volcanoes and by the rending and 
falling of vast masses of rock, but silence and stillness pre- 



vailed. No one inured to the din created by our species can 
conceive the silence of a calm day on pre-Cambrian earth. 
I cannot use the word hush which perhaps best conveys 
the sense of a closed-in silence for it also implies a world of 
life that has fallen silent. This was a negative and utter 
quiet. For us, in addition to our own noise — die racket 
of cities that must in fact penetrate the surrounding coimtry 
— and that of animals, birds and insects, there is a fine tissue 
of imperceptible sounds; vegetation growing, leaves and 
flowers moving, all the stirrings of growth and decay. Then 
there was nothing. Perhaps in die heart of deserts that 
ancient stillness may persist, yet we cannot experience it, 
for wherever we go we take a humming community of 
life with us— ourselves. 

The Cambrian Age, widi which orthodox geology begins, 
was one of those periods (if it is permissible to use diat 
modest word for sudi an immodest stretch of time) when 
the sea was dominant over the land. The whole area of 
Britain lay below the water towards the end of an ocean 
trough whose northern shore followed roughly the present 
Adantic coast of North America, although hnked with the 
Pacific across Central America and Panama. Sloping gently 
nordi-eastwards, this shore passed not far to the north of 
Scodand, the trough being partially closed at its north-east 
end by a land mass covering much of what is now eastern 
Europe. The whole southern coast of tliis proto-Adantic 
Ocean (which has been given the name of Poseidon) was 
formed by a vast continent that for the next four hundred 
miUion years was to unite South America, Africa, Arabia, 
southern India and Australia in one continuous land mass. 
This continent the geologists, with their surprisingly wanton 
fancy, have named Gondwanaland, so giving us the verbal 



landscape of Poseidon lapping upon Gondwanaland — the 
name of an Indian valley elevated to meet the god of all 
the oceans. 

As for that patch of sea floor that corresponded to the 
future British Isles, sediments from the northern continent, 
and more remotely from Gondwanaland, were forming 
the substance of future rocks. Those that arc now exposed 
are in North Wales and round Skiddaw, in the Isle of Man 
and along a narrow belt in north-west Scotland from Loch 
Carran to Durness where Cambrian rocks fringe the inland 
edge of the still more ancient formations of the coast. 
Anotlier outcrop of this age is in Shropshire, where 
again it lies against pre-Cambrian survivals in the strange 
countryside of the Longmynd. Far out of sight and 
out of mind beneath our feet, a massive Cambrian 
ridge supports southern England, deeply buried by later 

The oldest Cambrian rocks arc quartzites, sandstones and 
limestones, but by tlic middle of the period when the sea 
floor had sunk to its lowest, fine-grained black mud filtered 
slowly down to form beds of shale. Before the end of 
Cambrian times the land was rising again and in shallower 
seas were formed the slates of North Wales, which after 
much pressing, folding, faulting arc now tlic finest roofing 
material in the world. So all those particles that drifted 
through the waters of Poseidon and sank as soft, rich mud 
on its floor have been raised up again to bum and glisten 
on countless houses, looking sometimes from far off like 
small, angular mountain ranges. 

In North Wales the Cambrian strata if piled upon one 
another would have a thickness of eighteen thousand feet. 
Wc have all, I hope, some experience of the depth of mud 



that can form at the bottom of a duck-pond in half a life- 
time, but here we are dealing with an area that was at a 
distance from the nearest mud-producing lands. The 
accumulation to this depth of grains that had drifted far 
through the sea before coming to rest on its floor, gives 
some impression, like the rustling ticks in a clockmaker’s 
shop, of the passage of time, the expending of a hundred 
million years. 

Geological text-books open with the Cambrian Age 
because it saw the shaping of life into forms assertive enough 
to endure. In yet earlier ages diere must have been many 
living forms that lie beyond die reach of memory, because 
they were too dim, too soft-bodied and faintly outlined 
to leave even ghosdy traces. Almost all we have are a few 
impressions of jelly-fish and worms, and deposits of graphite 
and carbonate of hme that may have been created by algae 
and bacteria or other elementary aquatic organisms. The 
existence of earlier forms is proved only by the variety that 
life had achieved when in Cambrian times many species 
developed the habit of secreting limy external skeletons 
that drew a firm line round diese tentative essays in living. 
Whether they did so for protection, or willy nilly as a 
result of an irresistible chemical pressure for the secretion 
of excess calcium carbonate, may now never be recalled. 
What is certain is that this early imposition of form 
upon matter made the creatures themselves far more 
prone to fossilization, and so has preserved for us some 
memories of species ancestral to ourselves and all other 
animal life. 

The land remained utterly barren, but in the sea the 
invertebrates were evolving so fest that by the end of the 
era all the main divisions were established — ^though in 



primitive forms. By that curious mechanism which some- 
times allows the evolution of a whole species through 
millions of years to be rehearsed in the flash of an individual 
life, some modem shellfish reproduce in their embryonic 
state the ancient forms which once fed in Cambrian seas. 

Many soft-bodied creatures swam or floated in the surface 
waters or buried themselves in the sand; in Britain we have 
no memory of them, but in British Columbia there are 
remains of stagnant swamps or sea-beds where dehcate 
organisms were held tenderly in the mud and preserved 
with the utmost perfection down to the details of minute 
digestive systems, of hair-fine antennae. In the shallow water 
over northern Britain worms tunnelling in the mud have 
left not dieir bodies, but marks of their passage — the burrows 
and tracks conspicuous in the pipe-rock of north-western 

The masters of these seas were the trilobites, primitive 
crustaceans looking not unlike woodlice, and sharing 
(a few of them) the art of curling into a ball. Some of these 
creatures were of pinhead size, but most were an inch long 
and a few species were monsters of eighteen inches, the 
largest, most highly organized forms that hfe had attained. 
Among the trilobites were varieties that were blind scaven- 
gers of the mud, but others had two, or even three, eyes 
in which, as I have said, some faint perception of the 
natural world for the first time took shape. 

In their way, the brachiopods, or lamp shells, were as 
successful as the trilobites. Round the fringes of the ocean, 
enclosed between homy or limy shells, these animals 
swayed with the movements of the tides, floating bamacle- 
like on fleshy stems that anchored them to the sea-floor. 

Then there were the graptolites, colonies of tiny organisms 


Gnarled rocks tar more ancient than life 


living together in homy sheaths, cities that were built on 
various plans. The Cambrian forms were reticulated and 
tliese delicate nets with their microscopic inhabitants 
floated on the surface of the water and were often blown 
or carried by tides and currents far out to sea. When a 
colony perished their city sank to the bottom and might 
be fossilized in deep-sea muds beyond the range of the 
trilobites and other creatures of the shallow margins. This 
habit of long sea voyages distributed the graptolites widely 
about the world, and, as difierent species succeeded one 
another quite rapidly in time, they arc invaluable to 
geologists. Perhaps no other group except the ammonites 
is a better guide for the correlation of strata in regions far 
removed from one another. William Smith woirld have 
foimd them creatures after his own heart. 

The coralline sponges, other builders of great communal 
tenements, were lovers of warm water. The fact diat the 
limestones and reefs formed from them are found among 
Cambrian rocks as far apart as Greenland, Morocco and the 
Antarctic suggests that the earth at this time ofiered an 
equable climate for the further incubation of her new life. 
Text-books suggest that the land was probably desert — ^but 
is it possible to have desert when there was no Hfe on land 
to desert them? Alternatively is it possible to have anything 

The rise in the land level that had brought the shores of 
Poseidon closer to Britain during the late Cambrian Age 
was reversed in the succeeding Ordovician when the sea 
again covered land which had for a time been exposed. It 
is possible, however, that for at least a part of the seventy 
million years of the Ordovician age southern and south- 
east England emerged above the sea. Certainly it was a 

p 49 


time when the Poseidon trough was buckling a litde, 
puckering into ridges running from south-west to north- 
east — forerunners of the vast Caledonian folds of the next 

In the main the building of the British Isles went on with 
the accumulation of muds in deep water and shelly sand 
in shallow — the stuff of future shales, slates and sandstones. 
These are represented now by some of the Skiddaw slates 
and by tlie Ordovician parts of the famous rock scam 
running through Shropshire from Longmynd to the Wrekin, 
a seam recalling a span of time from the pre-Cambrian to the 
Silurian period. The Ordovician seas seem to have been 
shallow in Wales, where the shelly sands are commonest, 
and to have deepened towards Scotland where odier rocks 
formed at diis time now run from the Rhinns of Galloway 
to the Pendand HiUs. Anodier covmtryside that was largely 
made at dais time was of course south-west Wales, the home 
of the Ordovicians and the scene of the great Sedgewick- 
Murchison controversy. The mild, imdulating plains of 
Pembrokeshire were laid down layer on layer below Ordo- 
vician seas, although later eruptions of igneous rock have 
made the curious outcrops, like African kopjes, against 
which farmsteads and cottages crouch for shelter. These 
outcrops and the buildings that are part of the same rock 
look like islands of activity among the quiescent plains. 
The headlands, too, that fang the sea between Fishguard 
and St. David’s are of volcanic rock that resists while 
the intervening, softer, Ordovician sediments are worn 

By far the most dramatic of these eruptions of the molten 
substratum took place in the adjacent part of the sea-bed 
that was to become North Wales. Ffere the cracking of 



the Cambrian and pre-Cambrian crust allowed die eager 
magma to gout up in masses that now form the mountains 
of Snowdon and Cader Idris. There is something eloquent 
in this conflict between the old elements of fire and water 
as volcanoes belched on the ocean bottom. There must 
have been savage turmoils in the sea when the great plutonic 
masses humped themselves up and Uquid lava flowed about 
the sea-bed, sometimes pushing between the layers of sedi- 
ment, sometimes spreading out on the floor where it was 
i.aoulded by die pressure and movement of the water into 
soft pillowy forms strangely luisuited to its own brittle 
substance. But the conflict became really magnificent, 
the three eyes of trilobites perhaps dazzled by flames and 
flashes while the floating colonies of graptolites were flung 
into the air, when volcanic energy was enough to break 
through the water and make a true eruption in mid-ocean. 
The clouds of dust and ash thrown up by these submarine 
explosions rained back on to the sea and formed volcanic 
beds among the siltings of mud and sand. Often huge 
numbers of dead trilobites, brachiopods, and graptolites 
must have sunk to the bottom, candidates for fossiUzation, 
as these cataclysms tore the waters that were their breed- 
ing grounds. 

The seas became more than ever full of creatures, for 
these disturbances seem to have provided a cliaUengc that 
stimulated the evolution of life, encouraging bold experi- 
ments among old groups, and establisliing new ones. 
Geology oflEers many facts in support of tliose who see 
conflict and war as necessary to creation. The developments 
were not so conspicuous as they were to be after the titanic 
Caledonian upheaval, but many new invertebrates appeared 
while old fiaims were evolving. The graptolites increased 



fast and developed little floats to support them tlirough 
the waves; brachiopods strengthened and beautified their 
shells widi the elegant ribbed fan that the scallops have 
introduced to our dinner tables. The trilobites, on the 
other hand, were showing signs of decline, and at least one 
of them, die genus Ampyx that grew long curved spines, 
may already be recognized as a decadent. 

New types of coral decorated clear and shallow waters 
which swarmed with minute bryozoa; there were sea 
snails, and ancestors of die cuttle-fish and octopus. These 
hved in conical shells, some curved, some straight, some 
partially curved. As though it had found some weak place 
in the carefully balanced forces of life, one of the cepha- 
lopods shot (during tens of millions of years) to a length of 
fifteen feet — a fitting horn for some primeval triton. 

The cchinoderms, sea animals diat include the starfish 
and the beautiful plant-like crinoids or sea-lihes, had put 
fordi an entirely new branch in die sea-urchins. These arc 
still, surely, among the greatest delights of all the delicious 
bric-a-brac of the seashore, whether they are bristling wida 
the hedgehog spines diat give diem their popular name, 
or whether their spines have been shed and diey lie in bare 
perfection, hke little round boxes of silver filigree. Midway 
in time between these contemporaries of our own and their 
earliest Ordovician ancestors, sea-urchins were abundant 
in the Cretaceous period and left the Chalk full of dieir 
neat fossil cones widi fine inscribed lines radiating from 
the apex. Because their shape and these rays made diem 
natural sim symbols, the Bronze Age peoples of Britain 
had magical uses for them, sometimes burying them with 
the dead. On Dunstable Down in a grave cut into the 
Chalk itself, a Bronze Age man was buried lying crouched 



witliin a ring of scores of fossil sea-urchins; for those who 
left him there, he lay underground warmed by as many suns. 

That Sedgcwick and Murchison were able to maintain 
so long a dispute over the Ordovician deposits of Wales 
is enough in itself to show that no sharp break divides 
this horizon from that of die succeeding Silurian Age. One 
passes gradually into the next. Even volcanic activity was 
for the time reduced although there were some minor 
eruptions which contributed to tlie present contour of 
ihe Mendip Hills. The slow buckling of the Poseidon 
basin continued, and so too did the silting up of the troughs 
that it formed. Occasionally and in places the seas were 
clear, shallow and warm enough to allow the formation 
of organic limestones, including the famous Wenlock 
Limestone, in places richer in fossils than any other sedi- 
ment in Britain. 

The limestones forming Wenlock Edge, had Housman 
known it, preserve for us an idyllically peaceful moment, 
die brittle elegance of Hfe round coral reefs in shallow, 
sun-irradiated seas. The corals and sea-lilies have been held 
there just as diey grew, but with limestone instead of warm 
sea water standing between dieir branches and in their 
fragile cups. With them are the trilobitcs and other small 
creatures which swam among them or scuttled in the crannies 
of the reefs. So common and so conspicuous arc die fossil 
trilobites in some parts of die Wenlock limestone diat they 
have won the local name of Dudley locusts. There is, I 
think, something pleasing in this vision of the sober English 
countryside, and the woods on Wenlock Edge stirring 
painfully deep in the poet's mind, while below the surface 
of the land and of time this tropical world was standing 
motionless. Now Wenlock Edge, the name slowly shaped 



by the tongues of the Shropshire people who passed their 
lives beside it, has become a rich image standing for all 
these things — as indeed it was probably the words more 
than die geographical reahty that worked in Housman’s 

One of the greatest expanses of Silurian rocks is in 
Central Wales, where, without the help of volcanic out- 
crops, it has made a relatively tame landscape; another in 
die Southern Uplands of Scodand runs as a broad belt 
along the southern edge of die Ordovician rocks from 
Wigtown to the Lammermuirs. 

The latest of the Silurian deposits, those of the Ludlow 
shales, were accumulating during die final phase of the 
filling up of the basin that had covered much of Britain 
since early Cambrian times. So great was this silting that 
the graptohtes with their seafaring habits began to dechne, 
and by the end of Devonian times diis once prosperous 
family had almost died out. It is suitable that they were 
given their original name of graptohtes because their 
fossils, showing as faint black hnes on the shale, were 
thought to resemble writing. In fact no other creatures 
have done more to write history with their own physical 

But apart from such local or special difficulties there was 
nothing to deflect life from the course on which it was now 
so strongly set — that of growing more and more complex 
and highly organized and of thrusting in new directions 
wherever an opening was found. It was now (though we 
have no evidence for it in Britain) that plant fife began to 
adapt itself to the land; organic existence, although in its 
most passive forms, was dragging itself out of the water. 
Now, too, the backbone, that cord which runs from our 



own back down to these remote beginnings, was develop- 
ing in primitive vertebrates. The remains of a torpedo- 
like creature closely akin to the surviving lancclet has been 
found in shales laid down in a Silurian estuary in die region 
of Lanarkshire. 

The last silting of Poseidon with ten thousand feet of 
I flags, grits and mudstones, to say nodiing of the coastal 

I lining of coral reefs, marks the end of an era. The Calc- 

i donian mountain building that brought the Silurian period 

I tO a violent close and continued during the Devonian 

I caused a radical change in the earth’s surface. It altered the 

I relation of land and sea and piled up huge mountain chains 

I which, however much diey have since been broken and 

I eroded, did begin to give our region of the world some of 

I the features it still possesses. 

I The line of the Caledonian folding is clearly marked by 
I the Great Glen and all those roughly parallel south-west 
I by north-east valleys corrugating the Scottish Highlands. 

I It not only folded die Higliland ridges and valleys but in 
■5 at least one place in the extreme north-west (round the 
Cromalt Hills) tore up a platform of hundreds of square 
' miles of pre-Cambrian rocks and pushed it sideways over 
younger formations. In the soudi the Ordovician and 
Silurian shales were crushed into small pleats to form the 
Southern Uplands. 

vJ Cumberland, Westmorland and North Wales were 
affected by the tremendous pressure, but the masses of 
V igneous rocks that had broken through the crust in Ordo- 
vician times were tough enough to offer some resistance 
!< and to save the sedimentary beds from the shattering dicy 
suflfered in the Southern Uplands. 

'% Looked at as a whole, the Caledonian folding left five 




great mountain masses roughly following the south-west 
to north-east axis. First in the south was the so-called St. 
George’s Land nmning from North Wales right across 
the present Irish Sea to the south-eastern angle of Ireland. 
Next to the north was the shorter ridge extending from 
the Lake District as far as the Isle of Man, then that of the 
Southern Uplands reaching from south-west Scotland 
down to Ulster. The Grampians formed another massive 
ridge, but between them and the Southern Uplands the 
Scottish Lowlands subsided as a single block dropping 
between die mountain masses. As for the Great Glen itself, 
where now the Caledonian Canal links a chain of ravishingly 
lovely lakes, it was tom by a sideways slip, the whole bulk 
of the north-west Highlands slipping against that of the 
Grampians. Finally, a long fold with a scarp along the 
south-east face formed along the western Highlands through 
Donegal and on to Connemara. 

Meanwhile, in a much wider field, the pattern of land 
and sea had changed. Both Gondwanaland and the northern 
continent, which can conveniently be called Adantis, had 
so far advanced their coastlines that ancient Poseidon had 
been reduced to a narrow sea running from the neigh- 
bourhood of Montreal almost due east to Scandinavia. 
This oceanic ditch, which we have come to know as Tethys, 
in spite of many fluctuations was to maintain a recognizable 
existence for at least a hundred million years. Britain was 
now, as it were, heavily camouflaged. The scarp of the 
west Highlands fold was a part of the northern shore of 
Tethys so that the extremities of Scotland and Ireland with 
the Hebrides were all merged in Adantis. From a point 
just off the southern tip of Norway, however, this shore 
swung back in a long peninsula which ended in prongs 



formed by die new mountain ridges of Britain. Thus one 
long arm of the sea ran across central Scotland, while a 
smaller inlet covered the Lowlands. South of the St. Georges 
Land promontory the whole of South Wales and south- 
west and southern England were under die open Devonian 
ocean that stretched over all Western Europe. 

It is a difficult feat for us, so secure within the familiar 
shape of our island, to picture it divided between a northern 
continent and a greater Scandinavian peninsula. At least, 
however, our land was no longer altogether submarine, 
and it has never again been totally submerged. Through all 
the see-sawing that was to follow, some part of Britain 
would always know the sun. 

No sooner were the Caledonian mountains piled up than, 
inevitably, denudation began to wear them down. The 
folding had left innumerable weak places where the usual 
agencies of denudation, water, wind, frost and sun, could 
work quickly. The land had a raw, unstable look. Where 
now our mountains are plainly almost at rest, modest in 
height and rounded or with low angles — bare, worn bones 
with no flesh clinging to them — the new ranges were at 
first as lofty as the Alps and Himalayas, with the same 
provocative peaks and precipices which for a while would 
defy gravity and its ceaseless effort to drag them down. 
We can try to recall how magnificent peaks stood against 
heavy blue skies, their rocks heated by a fierce sim and their 
lower slopes red, dusty deserts bright with mirage. Every 
year violent rains set in and streams and rivers choked with 
sediment bowled larger stones with the force of spate. At 
these times avalanches fell and whole hillsides slipped 
downwards, while the rivers shed their burden in lake-beds, 
valleys and huge deltaic fans. Every year this seasonal 



attack was launched, every year for seventy-five million 
years, and by the end of it the mountains had been cowed, 
brought down almost to their present level. In many places 
it was only the granite mass that had risen to fill the base of 
the range which endured, the heavy skin of sedimentary rocks 
having been entirely wx)ni away. As for tlic vast mass of 
material carried down from the Caledonian mountains, 
much of it forms the famous Old Red Sandstone filling so 
many Scottish valleys, including Glen Mor itself, and pro- 
viding die good agricultural soil of the Lowlands and the 
western English Midlands. Wherever it is found at its 
most characteristic, in Herefordshire, for example, it still 
glows with the remembered warmth of Devonian deserts. 
In north Devon and Cornwall dark muds laid down instead 
of the sandstone have provided the Cornish slates, quarried 
in die glistening, harsh and rather sinister quarries found at 
such centres as Delabole. 

It was in the Old Red Sandstone that Hugh Miller, the 
devout Scottish quarrynian for whom geology was near 
to poetrv% first knew the excitement of exposing die bodies 
of creatures that were certainly fish, but fish quite unlike 
any then known to man. 

Hugh Alillcr’s books include Footprints of the Creator^ 
while his presidential address to the Royal Physical Society 
was entitled Geological Evidences in Favour of Revealed 
Religion. So far from being troubled in his faith by the new 
geological discoveries, he believed that each great geological 
age with its distinctive species was a separate creation by 
the Almighty and therefore a further proof of his power 
and (I think one must add) ingenuity. Hugh Miller was an 
instance of that phenomenon so much more exciting than 
an evolutionary mutation, of a boy bom to unknown work- 



ing-class parents with an innate and irrepressible capacity 
for romance, wonder and knowledge. He disciplined him- 
self to remain for long an ordinary working quarryman, 
but his fire could not fail to be seen and in the end he had 
academic recognition, if not fame. It was a fire that enabled 
him to write one of the few classics in English geology. 
To my mind he and Mary Aiming of Lyme arc by far the 
most remarkable, because the most spontaneous, of all the 
manifestations of consciousness roused in quest of its 
origins. Certainly the imprint of tlieir minds and fives will 
remain in the history of geology with all tlie sharpness of 
their own finest fossil specimens. 

In his account of liis first discovery of Devonian fishes 
in the Old Red Sandstone, Hugh Miller describes how he 
split open a calcareous nodule and found inside ‘finely 
enamelled’ fish scales. ‘I wrought on with the eagerness 
of a discoverer entering for the first time a terra incognita 
of wonders. Almost every firagment of clay, every splinter 
of sandstone, every limestone nodule contained its organism 
— scales, spines, plates, bones, entire fish ... I wrought on 
until die advancing tide came splasliing over the nodules, 
and a powerful August sun had risen towards die middle 
of the sky; and were I to sum up all my happier hours, the 
hour would not be forgotten in which I sat down on a 
rounded boulder of granite by the edge of the sea and 
spread out on the beach before me the spoils of the morning.’ 
This August day was in 1830. The young man’s hammer 
had discovered the remains of the earliest fishes, the Ostra- 
coderms whose leathery skins w^ere armoured with plates 
and spines, and who, lacking a jaw, fed through a slit set 
below the pointed snout. The Devonian seas were full of 
these creatures. 



Occasionally, when an island sea dried up, there must have 
been a horrible flapping and floundering, a dull rattling 
of homy armour before they suffocated and the bodies of 
untellable shoals were buried, later to form a dense mass of 
fossihzed remains. 

Such happenings, however, were no more than local 
catastrophes, for elsewhere these vertebrates and tlieir suc- 
cessors, so crucial in the evolution of species, throve and 
multiplied to such an extent that the Devonian is sometimes 
called die Age of Fishes. By die middle of the period as well 
as die Ostrocoderms (many would wish to withhold die name 
of fish from an animal that could not open its mouth) there 
were more developed fishes of many kinds, some of them 
already wearing scales. A few species such as Dinichthys grew 
to as much as twenty feet and had heavily armoured jaws as 
ruthless as a mechanical excavator. It is true that before 
them die eighteen-inch trilobites, the six-foot arachnids, 
had their relative power to tyrannize, but it seems that 
these great predatory vertebrates must have brought die 
first keen fear into die sea. Something akin to human 
emotion ran along diose newly evolved spines when 
Dinichthys hurled himself among the helpless shoals. 

Among the scaled fish one Devonian group seems to 
have held the secret of the future. These were the varieties 
that had paired fins and lungs enabling them, if stranded 
by seasonal drying, to shuffle back to the water. From 
them, so far as we know, is descended the whole train of 
the land vertebrates. 

Already before the close of the Devonian Age, the land 
had taken the place of the seas as the stage on which the 
great scenes of evolution were to be played. Algae and 
seaweed had already breathed out the free oxygen that 



made life on land possible. With this invisible atmospheric 
envelope of the earth ready to conceive it, life came up 
from the sea. The lunged fish had given rise to true amphi- 
bians; all manner of insects, not yet able to fly, had crawled 
on to the land, and there were millipedes, mites and spiders. 
The land that had always been silent and undisturbed began 
not only to be minutely stirred by small burrowings and 
by the growth of plants, but was marked by the impress 
of feet, even though between the footsteps went die groove 
of a scaly tail. 

The country which the eyes of these amphibians saw 
sharply if vacuously was already green. With a virgin 
environment to exploit, die new land plants flourished amaz- 
ingly. They were of those smooth, spiny and militant kinds 
we have come to associate with tropical conservatories, but 
already diey had much in common with modem plants; sap 
flowed in them and they breathed through open pores. 
Indeed, by the end of the age the vegetation had developed 
far towards the luxuriance of the Carboniferous forests. 
There were die foiuitain-like tree fern, and seed ferns carry- 
ing little nuts below their fronds; the big horsetails had a tree 
growth and there were even forerunners of true conifers. 
All these forms arc extinct, yet they were so near to what 
has become famihar that I doubt whether the ordinary, 
unobservant passer-by would notice them if they could 
spring up again in hedgerow or wood. 

In no geological scheme is the Devonian accepted as a 
major turning-point; it docs not mark either the beginning 
or the end of one of the great eras. To me, in this effort of 
recollection, it appears to be one. However broken up and 
unrecognizable, some of die land that was to be Britain 
was clear of the sea and green with vegetation. The main 



masses of our mountains had been formed, and the Old 
Red Sandstone was ready to support heavy cornfields and 
cider orchards. To watch the close of a Devonian day would 
not have been the unimaginable experience of a few hun- 
dred million years earlier. As the shadows of the trees 
lengtliened there would have been a clapping and harsh 
rustling of the big leaves on the river bank as clumsy 
animals pushed among them; if there was no birdsong or 
even die humming of insects at least there was that most 
characteristic evening sound, the occasional splash of fish 
in quiet water. 

Perhaps more than any other, the age that followed was to 
reach through time and eficct the face and fortune of the 
British Isles. This it was to do by creating a substance — coal 
— ^which at a certain moment in their historical evolution men 
sought as eagerly as food, so eagerly that they were ready to 
leave their habitat and become pale-skinned burrowing 
creatures, coming to the surface only at night. To move 
away from die pleasanter places and huddle their dwellings 
round the grimy entrance to dieir tunnels. 

At first, with some spread of warm and shallow seas, 
limestone formed, the Carboniferous or Mountain Lime- 
stone that was to be built into some of the most solid 
and respectable piles in England, buttresses of its pride and 
self-confidence. The work of silting up these Carboniferous 
seas was completed by deposits brought from die northern 
continent of Atlantis, then hot, mountainous and swept by 
monsoons. A large river with tributaries drawn from terri- 
tories stretching from the north of Scotland to Norway 
poured out its coarse sediments across north-eastern England. 
So were Norwegian pebbles brought to Yorkshire and held 
in the Millstone Grits that were laid down as the deltas of this 



northern river. Silting, combined with the elevation of 
expanses of low-lying land and the influence of the warm 
rains of the southern monsoons, led to the formation of 
marsh and brackish swamps where the Coal Measure forest 
grew in sombre luxuriance. 

It is sombre in these swamps, for the fohage is dark green 
and there arc nowhere any flowers. Yet tlierc is scent in the 
air. Here already is tlic rich aromatic breath of resins, a 
presage of the smell of pinewoods on summer days when 
pine cones crack in the sun. In many places the trees grow 
straight from the tepid water that carries a dull film where 
clouds of pollen have blown across it. Ferns feather die mud- 
banks and there are thickets of horsetails with the radiate 
whorls and neatly socketed stems of their diminished and 
weedy descendants. When, as a very small child, I was play- 
ing widi a horsetail that had been growing as a weed in one 
of our flower-beds, dismantling it section by section like a 
constructional toy, I remember how my father told me it 
was one of the oldest plants on earth, and I experienced a 
curious confusion of time. I was holding the oldest plant in 
my hand, and so I, too, was old. Now huge horsetails arc 
growing in the Carboniferous swamp wliile above them the 
fern trees with their sprouting leaves cut off most of such sun- 
hght as has succeeded in straying through the still loftier 
canopy of the scale trees — the lycopods whose slender trunks 
are chequered like snake skin. Across the hundred-foot ver- 
ticals of the growing scale trees are the diagonals of many 
that have fallen and lodged against their fellows, while others 
lie horizontal, already half-digested by the swamp. Here 
decay is active among growth, trees and ferns thrusting 
towards the summit of their life while others are slowly 
reverting to inorganic forms. 



Among these imperceptible rhythms of growth and decay 
arc the quicker movements of the swamp creatures. There 
are shoals of fish in the pools and slow streams of the forest; 
vast beds of molluscs line the edges of the lagoon. Dragging 
their wide belUes across the mudbanks, sagging heavily back 
into the water go amphibious monsters like grosser croco- 
diles. Over the streams and pools, through the oppressive 
greenish light, with a clittering of glassy wings, twist 
gigantic dragonflies, the largest insects the earth will ever 

There is still no spring in diese forests, for all the fohage is 
evergreen, no seasonal rise and fall but only, continuously, 
Ufe going on beside decay. The toll of decay mounts with 
the centuries, the swamp hves above a tremendous accumu- 
lation of its own past, tree-trunks, leaves, and fronds, and 
scattered among them the broken bodies of die animal 
population — ^boncs, enjpty shells, the wings of dragon- 

The swamp itself mounts slowly, but meanwliile the 
whole platform of land is sinking until somewhere far away 
the sea breaks in, sea water invades this stagnant world, fishes 
choke, the amphibians, if they can, move away and die 
insects go — ^as insects do. For a time forlorn, ragged trunks 
of dead scale trees stick through the water. But they sink, the 
whole scene sinks and the particles of sediment begin to fall 
again burying all the dead stuff of the swamps and forests in 
layers of forgetfulness. It is a drowsy scene to contemplate, 
and sleep muffles me. I see Loxomma, the amphibian, his flesh 
fallen away to reveal the long column of his spine and the 
litde bones of his hands and feet. The spine is lengthening, 
vertebra after vertebra, without end, and running through 
the vista of their bony arches there is a mounting current, a 



Upheavals in the Earth’s crust forced the rock beds into pleats (see p. ss) 


A mud surface crackled by the fierce sun of Devonian times (see p. S7) 


sense of the passage of some energy and power. The vista of 
arches — I sec now that it is a tunnel and that there are living 
creatures crawling along it, each with a single eye shining in 
Its head. I am stupid, they are only lamps, and the roaring in 
my cars is nothing but a drill, one of those confounded 
drills. ‘Christ, look at the old blighter,’ someone says, 
and I notice that Loxomma is there again (perhaps he had 
never gone) and they have excavated him with their drill. 
‘Makes your spine creep a bit, don’t it.^ Christ, look at that 
hand . . .’ 

Towards the end of the formation of the Coal Measures 
and in the age that followed there w'as a bout of earth 
movement, another crumpling of the beds of sedimentary 
rocks widi the usual accompaniment of volcanic eruption. 
Tethys had by now sliifted further south, and Britain was 
embedded in the eastern end of the continent of Atlantis, but 
an inlet from a northern arm of Tethys covered northern 
England while another basin extended across the south- 
western peninsula. This Armorican folding was to build die 
main architectural features of the Midlands, as the Caledon- 
ian had shaped the Highlands. It tipped up the Carboniferous 
Limestone and Millstone Grit into the Pennines, and, at 
right angles to them, raised the Malverns and south Welsh 
mountains. Near to the centre of disturbance, Cornwall and 
Devon were sharply folded up against the resistant Welsh 
massif — as can be seen in die dramatic zig-zags of the pleated 
rocks at Bude. Here in die soudi-west it is once more the 
core of magma thrust into the base of the folds that has 
survived later denudation and now forms the masses of 
Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor and the lesser granite outcrops 
of the peninsula. Its heat was great enough to meta- 
morphose the surrounding rocks and cause the deposition of 
E 65 


veins of tin and other ores that were to draw men 
there and so to cast over much of Cornwall that faint but 
pervasive sense of degradation which everywhere follows 
rural niining. 

In many ways this Permian Age was a repetition of the 
Devonian. It, too, was an arid period, when newly built 
mountains were being denuded in desert conditions. The 
New Red Sandstone and the red marls have die same linger- 
ing glow of desert suns that bums in the Old Red. It seems 
ironical that Permian deserts shoiJd have created the 
scenery in East Devon which is like some self-conscious 
primitive painting with its red fields and green grass, and 
trim, toyhke atmosphere. Their influence shows, too, in the 
red cliffs of Cumberland round St. Bee’s Head. 

Where through the rocks the waters ooze 
Red as the sap in the trees 
And becks swill seaward, rich as wine 
The haemorrhage of the split mine. 

Much of Norman Nicholson’s poetry, springing so directly 
from this countryside, shows the same red stain. 

Again in Permian times evaporating seas became so over- 
laden with salts that slowly the hfc in them was bhghted. 
In successive layers in the narrow belt of Magnesian 
Limestone east of the Pennines it is possible to see how the 
brachiopods grew stunted and misshapen as molluscs do 
to-day when they struggle with the same conditions in the 
Red Sea. 

I have come to the end of the span of three hundred 
miUion years which the geologists have marked out in the 
stream of time and given the name Palaeozoic. It is a break 
with little real significance for the purpose of these memoirs, 
but, Uke so many scientific devices, it has a rough and ready 



usefulness. Many of the creatures, such as trilobites and grap- 
tolites, which had been dominant in earlier seas, had died out. 
On the other hand, while there had been a few reptiles in the 
Carboniferous, they were only now to seize the oppor- 
tunity for their fantastic proliferation, the indulgence of 
tlieir megalomania. Mammals and birds, not yet ready to 
make their appearance, were beginning to show faintly, like 
the ghost shots of the cinema, in the bodies of their rep- 
tilian ancestors. 

In the history of the creation of Britain, too, the break has 
its convenience. There was to be much retoucliing, but the 
whole highland part of the islands had now been roughly 
shaped. The lovely ancient country of Cornwall, the Devon 
and Somerset moorlands, Wales and die Pennines with the 
stuff of the Yorksliire dales and the whole of Scotland was 
essentially there. It had a hot and sometimes desert climate 
in place of the present soft climate of Atlantic rains; it was 
trodden by amphibians and reptiles instead of deer ; its rivers 
were full not of svelte trout and sahnon but of barbaric 
grotesques with homy armour and spines ; its more fortunate 
valleys grew scale trees rather than silver birch; the croaking 
of amphibians was its best substitute for bird song. Perhaps, 
indeed, a few conifers and some dragonflies were the closest 
living link between then and now. But the stracture was 
there. It was already certain that this would never be a land 
of mild fertility from which all wildness could be driven by 
cultivation. The moimtains would endure to feed those roots 
of human nature which are starved in cities and even among 
cornfields. It was a himger that began to be felt in the 
eighteenth century when Englishmen had won their battle 
against too much darkness and began to be conscious of too 
much light. By the end of the Palaeozoic era the possibility 



of Wordsworth was assured. When the time came for his 
birdi the way would be open for his poetry as immediately 
a way was open for die extraordinary new shapes of the 


Creation of the Lowlands 

D uring the opening phases of the Mesozoic 
era land remained dominant over sea and Britain 
lay embedded in the continent of Atlantis. 
Tethys, still a narrow trough, separated Atlantis 
from Gondwanaland. Arid conditions remained and in many 
regions of the planet there were wide deserts with expanses 
of brackish water. Here and there in Britain crackled mud 
surfaces have been uncovered which once formed die mar- 
gins of such lakes and pools. Sometimes they bear imprints 
left by passing reptiles, and sometimes the marks of heavy 
raindrops — ^memories of the storms that seasonally broke in 
upon the torrid heat. Looking at these footmarks with the 
dents and stars of the raindrops on the parched surface, the 
reality of a harsh, shimmering red and intemperate world 
returns for a moment. 

At first two salt lakes or inlets covered south-western 
England and much of the Midlands and the north, but late in 
Triassic times they merged into one and the greater part of 
England was under a single shallow lake. From this lake the 
Cumberland and Westmorland mountains, the Pennines, 
and at times lower outcrops such as Chamwood Forest and 
the Wrekin, rose as rocky islands. With its water exposed to 
fierce sun, evaporation was great enough to allow the 
deposition of the salt beds of Cheshire and Durham, the 
thick crystalline veins which now men quarry and refine, 
box, and label witli neat, invented names. It is one more 
example of the perpetual effort of human consciousness to 



impose itself on the undifferentiated mass, to shape ideas and 
ideals — packet of Cerebos. At the same time, too, we are 
witnessing, as a simple physical fact, men turning to these 
deposits to replenish the salt dissolved in their blood, sweat 
and tears. Salt which entered into living systems in days even 
more remote than the Triassic when Hfe first enclosed its 
blood streams in tlie midst of a briny sea. 

As business men have packeted Cerebos, geologists, as wc 
know, have packeted time. Here the Triassic has been for- 
tunate. There is a distinction in the names of its two main 
divisions of Bun ter and Keuper, names tliat might well have 
been created for their characters by P. G. Wodchouse and 
Aldous Huxley. There is richness of texture in the statement 
that the Bunter Pebble Beds he between the Lower and 
Upper Mottled Sandstone; somediing both vivid and droll 
in the knowledge diat ii] Keuper days the hot red Bunter 
deposits were succeeded by Tea Green Marls. 

When I think of the Triassic lakes and seas, I am reminded 
of the Ancient Mariner and see them beneath a bloody sun at 
noon. ‘Yea slimy things did crawl with legs upon a slimy 
sea. ’ Among them were the cutde-fish whose skeletons have 
made diose slender, bullet-like fossils known as belemnites. 
The water snakes, too, were there in the shape of the 
ammonites which now coiled and swam in vast numbers. 
They were able to take the place of the extinct graptolites as 
die most sensitive time-keepers. Between each chamber of 
the coiled shell are sutures as intricately fretted as those 
dividing the sections of a human skull, and in their steady 
evolution these lines can be deciphered almost as accurately 
as though they were written records of die age in which each 
creature lived. 

Already there wxre a few of those savage reptiles, those sea 



beasts of prey, the ichthyosaurs, whose fossil remains still 
preserve a kind of caricature of their ancient ferocity. Their 
eyes, ringed with bony plates, their long snouts g rinnin g 
with teeth, they glare down from museum walls and seem to 
promise that they were even more merciless hunters than the 
clumsy monsters of the Devonian. They must have worked 
havoc among the helpless shoals, though some at least of the 
Triassic fish had a means of escape: the surface of the sea was 
tom when a shoal of flying fish, trying to evade the snapping 
jaws below, hurled themselves into the air and cut a gUtter- 
ing arc through the heat. 

When the sea invaded the Keuper lake from the south, 
its gently encroaching waves swept up the accumulated 
remains of untold generations of reptiles and fish, piling 
them into beds which were soon peacefully buried by 
the earliest deposits of another phase of sedimentation. In- 
deed, ‘the gentle foundering of tlie Triassic landscape’ 
as this event has been described, was followed by further 
sea periods that were to do as much to shape the English 
Lowlands as previous ages had done to shape the mountain- 
ous north and west. 

During the Jurassic period, although the main trough of 
Tethys still lay well to the south of the British region, the 
part of it which always covered much of Europe extended 
further west until once more the greater part of England was 
under open sea, only the Highlands and part of East Anglia 
remaining clear of it. It was this sea which created the so- 
called Jurassic belt, the strip of country running diagonally 
from Dorset to the moors of the North Riding. At the 
base are the Liassic beds, often blue in colour and curi- 
ously soft and muddy, and above it the oolitic limestones 
in all the variety in which tliey occur between the Cotswolds 



and Lincoln Edge. Their counterpart and continuation in the 
north is the sandstone of the Cleveland and Hambledon 
Hills which raise their fine but austere scarps above the Vale 
of York. The Jurassic belt was to have a powerful effect upon 
the land once human settlement had begun. It provided the 
one relatively open thoroughfare across central England, it 
yielded the stones — Bath, Portland, and Purbcck marble — 
that were to be quarried, carved and raised against the sky in 
many of the most beautiful buildings men have ever made. 
Now, latterly, the Lias is exerting its influence, for its 
peculiar qualities make it an ideal material for cement — so 
diat it may be said to have contributed to many of die ugliest 
buildings men have ever made. Finally, the belt is full of 
ironstone, which in Northamptonsliire, Lincolnshire and 
Yorkshire has done to much to determine the pattern of 
industrial development. 

Of all places where meniory is deeply stirred, I should 
choose Lyme Regis as the most potent. Walking between 
die high, cnimbling cliffs and the sea, one is exposed to the 
assault of time. The great depths of soft, grey-blue soil sug- 
gest meniory itself To abandon oneself to them is like 
moving in that smoky world which is reached by moving 
among the images of the past stored in one’s own brain. And 
there embedded in them are the perfect spirals of die 
ammonites, the slender cones of bclemnites, and the glaring 
eyes of ichtliyosaurs, to represent the vivid moments and the 
cruel monsters of memory. 

Perhaps I am particularly conscious of the power of Lyme 
Regis because I was taken there when a very small child, and, 
much awed by my surroundings and the strangeness of the 
whole affair, was left to pick out Gryphaea (or Devil’s Toe 
Nails, the shells diat had roused John Strange) while my 



elders used their hammers to extricate bclemnites. It was, I 
think, my first encounter with fossils in situ, and it made a 
very deep impression on my imagination. 

But if any recent memory haunts those mouldering cliffs, 
it is the spirit of Miss Anning. Mary Anning was the daughter 
of a carpenter at Lyme whose one claim to fame was a small 
transaction with Jane Austen, an encounter which took place 
when Mary was only five years old. Jane Austen, an honest 
child-hater, probably looked with a cold eye on the future 
‘most eminent female fossiHst’ w^iose limited fame would 
have seemed even more improbable than her own trimnph. 
Now both women arc a part of Lyme, an clement in die 
place as real as the Cobb itself. Like Hugli Miller, Mary 
Anning is a proof that even the simplest kind of creative 
force is irresistible, that its possessors will always thrust them- 
selves up through die mass of their fellows. Hers, if tradition 
may be believed, was strangely come by. During a Lyme 
horse-show a storm developed, and after a terrific flash of 
lighming three people and a baby were seen lying on the 
ground under an elm tree. The diree adults were dead, but 
the baby, Mary Anning, ‘upon being put into warm water, 
revived. She had been a dull child before, but after this 
accident became lively and intelligent and grew up so.’ 
Lyme was already conscious of its proximity to the past; a 
local fislmionger displayed million-ycar-old fishes on the slab 
among the day’s catch, while Mr. Anning himself was an 
established fossil hunter, often no doubt bringing back to his 
shop the fragments of reptilian spines which were familiar 
enough to have acquired the local name of ‘Verterberries’. 
From very early years Mary went with him to the cliffs, and 
when he died, she carried on the trade because she and her 
family needed the money. In i8ii, nineteen years before the 



young Hugh Miller saw his first Devonian fish, this twelve- 
year-old girl found the first complete ichthyosaur. In 1824 
she made the earhest discovery of a plesiosaur and disposed of 
it to the Duke of Buckingham (it has now come to rest in 
South Kensington); in another two years she had un- 
covered the first flying reptile or pterodactyl. Perhaps her 
own favourite was a baby plesiosaur; writing to Dean 
Buckland she commented with pleasure on the presence of 
its coprolitc still resting on the pelvis and added that ‘the 
neck has a most graceful curve’. 

Mary Anning’s extraordinary record of discovery helped 
to attract many of the great pioneers of geology to the little 
resort. She was a lifelong friend of de la Bechc ; Lord Ennis- 
killen and Sir Richard Owen used to scramble over the cliffs 
with her, while Dean Buckland himself in his younger days 
was often seen in her company ‘wading up to his knees in 
search of fossils in the Blue Lias’. During a visit from 
Roderick Murcliison, it is recorded that Mary Anning and 
liis wife trudged along the beach with pattens on their feet. 
Perhaps her greatest social triumph was a visit from the King 
of Saxony; she wrote her name in his pocket book and 
assured him that she ‘was well known throughout the whole 
of Europe’. As is clear from her portrait, Mary Anning was 
quite unaffected by such triumphs; she remained secure in 
her own citadel, tlie simple woman who had made great 
discoveries, who had recalled much from oblivion. 

The Lias represents very fairly the character of the early 
Jurassic seas, the muddy seas that later also deposited the 
thicknesses of the dreary Oxford and Kimmeridge Clays. 
At its southernmost extent, this latter formation included a 
bituminous shale known as Kimmeridge Coal. I remember 
an occasion when, mysteriously, a bed of this shale caught 



fire underground, and the newspapers were full of infernal 
tales of smoke belching from meadows and Enghsh hedges 
falling into ash overnight. 

Near the village of Kimmeridge, both before and during 
the Roman occupation, the hard black shale was lathe- 
turned to make bracelets. It was a thriving local trade, and 
the bracelets were sold widely throughout the country. 
More recently the people living round Kimmeridge were 
puzzled by the small black discs that they sometimes turned 
up in their fields and gardens. They gave diem the name of 
Kimmeridge money and beUeved them to have been the 
currency of some fabulous race whidi had held the land 
before them. Now it has been discovered that these discs fell 
from the centre of the shale rings when they were being cut 
into bracelets. 

The Jurassic seas were not persistendy muddy. The clays 
and shales alternate with beds of limestone which were laid 
down in warm and shallow water, full of corals and deUcate 
sea-hhes — and where for the first time crabs steered their 
diagonal comscs across the floors. These floors woidd have 
had a sandy appearance — but it was no ordinary sand. The 
oohtes of wliich the Jurassic limestone are so largely com- 
posed, are, as their name suggests, tiny spherical particles 
often resembhng the hard roe of a herring. Each oohte has 
its own complex structure, concentric layers of calcite or 
aragonite wrapped pearl-like round a speck of broken shell 
or quartz. How many milliard of these minute spheres are 
massed in the Jurassic belt is as idle a speculation as an estim- 
ate of the number of stars in the universe. We need only be 
grateful fbr the tenacity with which they hold together when 
we expose them in the walls of our buildings (if the builders 
arc not careless and ignorant as they were at Oxford) and for 



the colours and texture they assume on exposure. I shall 
trespass on the next chapter and say that the Bath, Portland 
and other less fine but lovely oolitic building stones 
form a living relationship between the Jurassic Age, the 
eighteenth century and ourselves, its latest inheritors. 
English eighteenth century architecture could not have 
achieved some of its highest felicities witliout this ideal 

The age has a smaller and more fantastic bond with the 
medieval builders. Towards its end sedimentation and chang- 
ing levels had formed a fresh-water lagoon in the Dorset area 
whose weedy floor was thick with the water snail Viviparus, 
Their coiled shells accumulated in vast numbers to form the 
dark green Purbeck marble that the medieval masons loved 
to cut and polish into slender columns. So Jurassic w'ater 
snails, their individual lives commemorated by murky 
scribings on the sinfacc of the marble, liclped medieval 
Christians to praise their God. 

The land surrounding these lakes and lagoons was heavy 
with vegetation and abounding with animal life. The forests 
as well as the long-established fern trees now included many 
conifers, the pretty maidenhair trees and, perhaps common- 
est of all, the cycads with their immensely long fronds, like 
glossy green feathers. There were still no true flowers, but 
the cycads bore cones which when open looked very much 
hke large blossoms. So striking is this flower-like appearance 
of the fossilized cones diat where they occur in the sand- 
stones of the Yorkshire coast they arc known as cliff roses. 
This unexpected local name calls attention to the incon- 
gruousness of tropical palms, their smooth fronds glistening 
in the sun, flourishing in what is now an austere northern 
country. Something more can be added to the scene while 



it Still hangs there, miragc-like, in the mind’s eye. It might 
be that flapping clumsily among the cycads, or perching 
above them on the Ginkgo trees, creatures would be visible 
that could only be described as birds. Their long flexible 
tails, the toothed jaws that took the place of beaks, and long 
claws protruding from the wings to support these still 
ratlier incompetent aviators show that they are only just 
drawing clear of their reptilian inheritance. But unmistak- 
ably the scales have frilled into feathers, and the feathers 
grow in coverts along the wings, round the tails and 
even in daring little crests at the back of the head. A creature 
that flies on feathered wings must be allowed to be a bird. 
Inevitably the senses are demanding of the imagination, 
‘Has it colour.^’ But the imagination, with no more to work 
upon tlian a poor tangled skeleton lying among delicate 
tissues of feather impressions in the grey monochrome of the 
limestone, admits itself defeated. Had the excitement and 
rivalry of courtship as yet caught up the chemical con- 
stituents needed to colour featlicrs — at least enough to put a 
gleam of red or blue into that narrow crest? Had the 
jubilation of successful mating and the wider prospects of 
lagoon and sky gained from the tree-tops as yet shaped the 
throat and tongue of Archaeopteryx to give it a voice? A 
shriek no harsher than that of a guinea-fowl or a chatter no 
less birdlike than the laughter of a yaffle? Recalling again the 
relics of brittle bodies tumbled in mud, it is clear diat there 
can be no answer. It can only be said with certainty that the 
germs of colour and song were there, forming far down in 
the vortex of time and waiting to issue in the plumage and 
calls of the plover I watched above the Norfolk furrows. It 
is certain, too, tliat the potentialities lay with Archaeopteryx 
and not with the leathery winged pterodactyls, like cold- 



blooded bats, and the other flying reptiles which were to 
achieve a temporary success in the following age. 

This was the day of reptile imperialism. While plesiosaurs 
and ichthyosaurs were ruling the oceans and these other 
hopeful reptilian experiments were being followed in the air, 
the land reptiles had already passed the bounds of present 
probability. No twentieth century nightmare, no poetic 
imagination however macabre, could produce anything so 
magnificently fantastic as die reptiles of the Jurassic and 
Cretaceous worlds. They grew into every opening, every 
cranny of opportunity offered them by an unexploited land. 
There were dinosaurs that lumbered like rhinoceroses or ran 
fleedy as ostriches on land, there were others that waded 
through swamps, that went on two legs tearing branches 
from trees or limbs from one another. Some were smooth 
and imctuous as sealions, some were armour-plated and 
many were exuberant with a variety of spines and horns. 
Whether the masterpiece in sheer size, the ninety-foot, 
kitten-brained diplodocus, ever Uved in Britain is not known ; 
it is not surprising that it throve in America. Why do not 
Americans put up a hfe-size monument to the all-time 
record in life size? 

Our land was certainly trodden by the stegosaurs, which 
may never have exceeded thirty feet in length but made up 
for it with the most extraordinary armour of any of the 
dinosaurs. Bony plates shaped like the ears of an AfHcan 
elephant were very inefficiendy attached on edge along the 
hiunped back of the monster; along the tail they gave way 
to pairs of ferocious-looking spikes. The greater part of the 
ten tons of body remained entirely vulnerable — the crest of 
plates was useless and it seems that the tail could not be 
swimg freely enough to give much ofiensive power to the 



spikes. In truth, Stegosaurus was a mild harmless creature 
which liked to wander along the edge of lagoons nibbling 
succulent plants and idly snapping at dragonflies. It makes me 
think of some childUke scholar who has lost his wits, and 
having hung himself with tin trays and saucepan Hds as a 
protection against his critics, strays through the rest of his 
life eating ice-cream and sipping creme de menthe. As for the 
consciousness centred in its tiny head, it must have registered 
the sharp outHne of the dragonflies and leaves, the rich smell 
of the lagoon, and the squelching and splashing of other 
dinosaurs feeding in mud and shallow water. Fleeting, tmeo- 
ordinated images hke the projection of transparencies on 
drifting clouds. 

The truth is that Stegosaurus and most of its contempor- 
aries were among the luxurious forms of life, possible only 
in a world still fresh enough to support such extravagance. 
In their natural world, they were the equivalent of the 
Egyptian pharaohs who in the early days of the social world 
could afford to build the Pyramids to cover the httle rem- 
nants of their dead bodies. 

The Jurassic Age had carried the slow building of Britain 
as far as the scarplands that form the southern boundary of 
the Midlands ; by the end of the Cretaceous Age much of the 
rest of the land had been prepared for its last shaping. With- 
out Chalk there could be no Albion, and there would have 
been no Chalk vrithout the Cretaceous seas. 

It was a revolutionary epoch. The whole of the earth was 
moving fast towards not indeed its final form, but the form 
which we creatures of time cannot help regarding as final. 
The once narrow belt of Tethys now extended over much of 
Atlantis and was beginning to look like the Atlantic. Gond- 
wanaland had shrunk to a land mass running from South 



America to Africa; Australia, now isolated, did not greatly 
differ from the present island. 

Britain still belonged to North America, to Atlantis, but 
already jaws of the oceans were waiting to close between 
Greenland and Europe and so to transfer the future allegiance 
of these islands to the European continent. At first much of 
Britain was land, though the Purbeck lagoon, after becom- 
ing the Wealden Lake, was invaded by the sea which 
deposited the Lower Greensand so conspicuous in the scen- 
ery of the Home Counties, where it is responsible for Leith 
Hill, die greatest eminence of that moderate countryside. It 
also laid down the Gault, an old word wonderfully expres- 
sive of the stiff clay, like bluish soap, for which its stands. At 
this time, as so often before, a distinct inlet of the sea covered 
northern England; it was bounded on the south by thc*old 
central land ridge running from the Welsh mountains south- 
eastward by way of Charnwood Forest towards London. In 
this northern sea was formed the Red Chalk now exposed in 
the cliffs at Hunstanton. As surely as migrant birds, Cam- 
bridge children go to Hunstanton for their various conva- 
lescences, and there they arc confronted with this spectacular 
piece of geological poster-painting, a cliff which is half red 
and half white like the sponge sandwiches at their tea parties. 

During the Cretaceous Age tlie sea was rising until at the 
height of this, its last great transgression over our land, it left 
only the Welsh and Scottish highlands uncovered. Its waters 
may have closed for a time even above Snowdon. 

For tliirty million years this sea remained almost constant 
and at the rate of one foot in thirty thousand years, the chalk 
mounted layer by layer on its bed. The arithmetic is simple, 
but the reality of the fact hard to grasp. If, enjoying the sun, 
a child leans against the cliff at Folkestone, his small figure 


A l l V(.l) HJSSII IISH 

Enanjcl-scalcd fish (see p. 59) 

1 PI am: v(h) |■■ i ish 

There imist have been a horrible Happiiii; and floundering . , (sec p. no) 


will span the accumulation of one hundred and twenty 
thousand years. And yet, knowing this, still my imagination 
will so speed up the process that I see it as a marine snow- 
storm, the falling of flakes through one of the clearest seas 
ever known. It was so clear because the surrounding lands 
were already worn down, had reached a position of rest and 
were no longer shedding muddy sediments. The rivers did, 
however, carry pure calcium carbonate in solution, and it 
was the chemical activity of microscopic marine plants that 
caused the deposition of this calcium as Chalk. Often it was 
so pure that hardly any refinement is necessary to make those 
white fingers which teachers use for their blackboard 
demonstrations, and which turn into the clouds of white 
dust so characteristic of the lower forms of scholastic hfe. If 
my imagination were reasonable, it would see these clouds 
rather than snowstorms blowing down through the 
Cretaceous oceans. 

The palhd sea-floor and the warm shallow water above it 
were full of elegant life — starfish, lobsters, sea-urchins, 
sponges and the pearly shells of ammonites that were 
already assuming many bizarre and decadent forms. The 
swarms of fish now included herring, and it is remarkable to 
be able to look at their hairlike bones and feel only aesthetic 
pleasure at the exquisite delicacy of the fossil. 

Many of the sponges were silicious species, resembling the 
glass sponges called Venus’s Flower Baskets. The silica of 
their skeletons, concentrating into nodules, formed the beds 
of flint seaming the Chalk which later were to be pursued 
by the shafts and galleries of the first miners in Britain. 

The reptiles still commanded all the elements, their 
kitten-brains untroubled by premonitions of approaching 
defoat. In the air the pterodactyls had attained a wing 
F 8i 


span of twenty feet, but, like our gliders, they had to find a 
cliff or other high ground from which to launch themselves 
into the air. Life in the coastal waters must have been 
momentarily dimmed by the passing shadow of enormous 
wings as the pterodactyls wheeled and glided in search of 
fish — often no doubt the luckless herring that had adapted 
extreme fecundity as the simplest form of defence. In the sea 
the largest and most sinister of the reptiles were the mosa- 
saurs, dieir bodies long and sinuous, their sharp jaws filled 
with teeth. In striking formal contrast with these authentic 
sea-serpents, giant tmtles pursued the shoals with deft, 
gentle strokes of their flippers. Held in the balance of the 
water, turtles seem infinitely gentle, dehberate; but their 
homy beaks are as pitiless as an eagle’s. 

On land the rule of the dinosaurs had not yet been chal- 
lenged. Indeed, Tyrannosaurus represents the physical force 
of hfe at its most brutal. The official description is: ‘ Tyran- 
nosaurus, the greatest of flesh-eating types, when standing 
was nearly twenty feet high. Its total length was nearly forty 
feet; it had fangs six inches long, and powerful claws for 
holding down its prey.’ This monster, blood running from 
its gorged mouth, is a symbol for that energy in life furthest 
removed from the sensitive receptivity of consciousness; two 
forces so much opposed must, perhaps, be necessary to one 
another. Certainly the thundering of Tyrannosaurus has not 
yet been silenced. 

Held in check by the great reptiles, the mammals remained 
modest in size and discreet in habit. They were, however, 
improving their eflSciency, for by the end of Cretaceous 
times they had perfected the placenta, the ingenious device 
enabling the embryo to share its mother’s blood stream. 
Women seem always to have frit the strangeness of the caul 



and have made it the centre of old wives’ laws and magical 
practices. In Egypt the pharaoh’s placenta was deified and, 
wrapped in cloth, was carried before him on all state 

It was vegetable life which with blind, irresistible inno- 
cence was preparing the way for further changes and for 
the emergence of the world we experience. During the 
Cretaceous period the old vegetation of tlie coal forests, the 
shining cycads and the fern trees, was being supplanted by 
deciduous trees and plants which could put out true flowers. 
With inexplicable speed it happened; the flowers and the 
pollinating insects with their urgent mutual eros drawing 
one another into being — the insects creating coloured petals, 
honey, seductive scents; the flowers strengthening wings and 
charging small bodies with an intense energy. 

By the end of the Cretaceous Age, which was also the end 
of the one hundred and twenty-five million years of the 
Mesozoic era, the transformation was complete. On the soil 
of Devon and Cornwall and those western parts of Britain 
comprising the shores of the Chalk-forming sea, there now 
grew fig, magnoha, poplar and plane. Widi the coming of 
these flowering and deciduous shrubs and trees the full 
seasonal rhythm was for the first time established. The 
rhythm that was later to be caught up in the human 
consciousness and so to put out its own blossoms, all the 
myths of the young dying god, the flowers of the garden of 

With the opening of the Caenozoic, the third great 
geological era, the play between land and sea had at last 
given the continents roughly their present form. Australia 
was there although the East Indies were under the Pacific; 
Africa was there though attenuated and with a peninsula 



jutting out westward towards South America. The western 
limb of Tethys was now quite plainly the Adantic Ocean, 
but was linked with the Pacific across Central America. The 
greatest differences were in Europe and Asia, where the 
swollen eastern limb of Tethys linked the Adantic with the 
Indian Ocean, covering Southern Europe and the Middle 
East and the whole of India. When for a time an extension 
from Tethys spread northward to the Arctic and so cut off 
Europe fi-om Asia, all the continents of the world were 

As for Britain, the region still belonged as much to North 
America as to Europe, for it lay at the south-eastern extrem- 
ity of a land mass running by Iceland and Greenland to unite 
with the northern extremity of Canada. It was separated 
from Europe by a relatively narrow sea overlying all 
southern England with the exception of the Wcaldon 
dome. This remained intact, rising from the sea .as an 
oval island of Chalk. Deposition was taking place only in 
the hollows on either side of this dome — ^in Essex and die 
Thames valley to the north, and to the south in west Sussex, 
Hampshire, the east side of Dorset and die north side of the 
Isle of Wight — the hollow known as the Hampshire basin. 
A large river draining the western continent flowed into this 
sea, probably in the neighbourhood of central Devon. From 
time to time the Wealden dome humped a little higher, and 
as the troughs were correspondingly depressed, there Sal- 
lowed an influx of the sea. As a result of these two opposite 
forces — of the river and of the inflowing sea — ^in both the 
northern and the southern troughs silts washed down by the 
river alternate with marine beds, each trailing off into the 
other. Among the latter is the London Clay that swells up 
beside me as Primrose Hill and supports so many London 



gardens as well as my own. Immediately above it, the river 
laid down the Bagshot Sands that make those ‘villainous 
heaths’ of Bagshot abused by Cobbett and where business 
men, who are not interested in the fcrtiUty of die soil, now 
build their weekend Tudor homes. 

This pattern of south-eastern England did not outlast die 
first half of the Caenozoic era. Already by the end of the 
Miocene, if not before, the Wealden dome had been des- 
troyed. The Chalk vault, having been raised beyond cracking 
point, broke up and was carried away. It left its roots, the 
North and South Downs, enclosing the eroded edges of the 
underlying Jurassic and Cretaceous formations. Among 
these die soluble clay beds inevitably eroded most rapidly, 
leaving the sands, particularly the Greensands and the older 
deposits of the central core round Ashdown Forest, as 
conspicuous ridges. This erosion also exposed a few still 
harder masses, such as the High Rocks of Tunbridge Wells, 
which seem almost uncanny because altogether out of place 
in die mild countryside of Kent. 

From the beginning of the era, and reaching a climax in the 
Miocene Age, the earth’s crust suffered its last violent dis- 
turbances. From Europe to China along the line of the 
ancient trough of Tethys the sedimentary rocks were folded 
into tremendous mountain langcs. Created no more than 
thirty million years ago, they are still lofiy and jagged, form- 
ing that backbone of the ancient world which includes the 
Alps and the Himalayas. 

Tethys, its old bed so violendy destroyed, shrank towards 
die present limits of the Mediterranean, while on their 
northern flank the new ranges imprisoned a sea that in time 
broke into pieces, of which the Black and Caspian Seas and 
the Aral and smaller lakes still survive. 



The British regionl ay far enough to the west to escape the 
main force of the folding. The upheaval that raised Mont 
Blanc and Everest was so far expended that in Britain it did 
little more directly than lift the mild Portsdown Hills, tip 
up the Chalk forming the Isle of Purbcck, the Needles and 
the continuing crest of the Isle of Wight, and raise the nob of 
Chalk on which Windsor Castle stands. But indirectly 
this Alpine folding had a more powerful influence on the 
future British Isles. When the shock responsible for the small 
buddings in southern England reached the hard rocks of the 
north, these rocks resisted, and, in resisting, cracked. Always 
ready for such opportunities, the molten stuff below boiled 
through the cracks and spread wide fields of basalt from 
Ulster to Mull and Skye. Where it faded to flow out freely 
the lava thrust into the vertical cracks and often spread 
horizontally also, finding weak places between the sedimen- 
tary beds. In parts of southern Scotland, little volcanoes 
erupted, and the cones having been eroded, the plugs of lava 
solidified in tlie central channel now forming the rocky 
eminences, or laws, such as those on which the castles of 
Stirling and Edinburgh have been built. Now, too, as 
always before in periods of volcanic activity, in places where 
the sedinientary rocks had been weakened, tlie partially 
molten upper magma pushed up into the hollows and there 
set as granite. In this way the Mounie mountains were 
formed, the Coolins of Skye, and probably also Goatfell in 

After this miniature landscape gardening (for such it seems 
by comparison with continental Alpine convulsion) the main 
tructure of our land was complete by die close of the 
Miocene Age. The remaining dozen miUion years only 
modified the design. There was erosion, cutting and smooth- 



ing and some moving of surface deposits by icesheets and 
glaciers; there was the approach of the sea towards our 
present coastline. 

Before the grip of the Ice Age fastened on Europe, some 
further additions were still to be made to the substance of 
Britain. During the earUer part of the Phocene period the 
sea in southern England stood several hundred feet above its 
present level, and as a result there was a trough along the line 
of the Thames valley that may have been united with an 
inlet of the Bristol Chaimel. The gravelly beaches it left 
behind still chng high up on the North Downs, making httle 
islands of heath. Where the race-horses gallop on the smooth 
chaUc of Epsom Dovms, heather, bracken and birch trees 
flourish not far away on Headley Heath — ^a relic of Pliocene 
seas. The gravels of rather later seas show on the Chiltems 
and on the outskirts of London where it is only the poverty 
of their soils that have preserved the precious open spaces of 
Hampstead and Highgate from cultivation and develop- 

In the south-west the granite masses of Dartmoor and 
Bodmin Moor and the sandstone upland of Exmoor were 
islands in a sea engaged in smoothing the siurrounding 
lands, especially that part of diem destined to become Corn- 
wall. That ohvc green, imdulating coimtry of die peninsula, 
whose feeling is exquisitely conveyed in small comers of 
some of Ben Nicholson’s paintings, was worn smooth by 
die Pliocene sea. Since then the land level has risen four or 
five hundred feet, and, as Cornwall was untouched by ice, 
its rivers are cutting down beds diat stiU fall sharply to the 
sea. Human beings are, it seems, irresistibly attracted to those 
places where nature has not become passive but is still full of 
force and the possibiUty of movement. One of the most 



visited of such places is Rocky Valley, near Tintagel, where 
the stream falls in a number of cascades, each hollowing a 
round basin at its foot. 

I once had an experience there which, tliough it seemed 
slight enough, has remained in my mind with a brightness 
and tenacity that suggest some special significance. I remem- 
ber how I walked through the sadly coloured countryside, 
where the whitewashed cottages were roofed with huge 
sheets of the local flagstone. I went past the headland that 
cloudy memories have associated with King Arthur, and 
where, certainly, Celtic monks meditated on God as the 
Atlantic spray blew across their cabins. Scrambling down 
the steep sides of Rocky Valley, I saw a dipper and followed 
its flight until I found I was looking down into one of the 
deepest of the rock basins. My inner eye can still project 
the spectacle with the clarity of a coloured lantern sUde. 
The white plume of the cascade fell from a height into 
a basin shadowy below but full of sun in its upper parts; 
a hght spume blowing off the spray held a miniature 
rainbow that bridged the shadows of the lower basin. In a 
narrow fissure, wet with spume, was the dipper’s nest with 
its neat domed roof and an opening at the side which seemed 
too small to allow the passage of the sleek body of the bird. 
Immediately below the nest, imprisoned in tlic smaller 
basin made by the fissure, a large and brilliantly coloured 
rubber ball rose and fell and spun round with the seething 
of the water. Through the opening of the nest I could 
see the dipper’s eye fixed upon me, and the roaring of 
the fall seemed to enclose me in this small, intense 
and perfectly incongruous world. Twenty years before 
I had held a ball of that kind in my hands and looked 
with love at its bright red and green paint; millions of 



years from now the river will have levelled Rocky Valley, 
will have grown tame and shed its rainbows. These are 
chance comments; the image can be interpreted as one 

One other region escaped erosion and gained some further 
deposits before the beginning of die Ice Age. This was in 
East Anglia where the Pliocene seas retreating north-east- 
wards laid down the shelly sands of the Red Crag as well as 
the older Coralline Crag, which is almost wholly composed 
of die remains of floating colonics of bryzoa, or sea-mats. 
As the seas withdrew still further, it seems the lowest reaches 
of the river Rhine flowed across eastern Suffolk and 
Norfolk, and deposited some of the other East Anglian 
crags. Possibly the so-called Chillesford Beds mark the 
actual course of the river where it ran through many 
bends to a mouth in the North Sea. Finally, before the whole 
countryside was overwhelmed by icesheets, forest and peat 
bogs formed the Cromer Forest Bed, a curious and con- 
spicuous survival. In die cliffs near the resort, its dark brown 
band stands out clearly under the overlying masses of the 
glacial drifts. From it anyone can pick out the relics of 
Pliocene bogs — blackened sticks and leaves and innumerable 
tiny white shells. Between its two peat beds He the 
rehes of elephant, rhinoceros, hippotamus and sabre-toothed 
tiger. A child playing on the beach could pick up one 
of these fragments and drop it in his bucket together 
with a live starfish — a species wliich struck out its shape 
in the world long before these mammals and has long 
outlasted them. 

The animals of the Cromer Forest Bed (I wish they might 
have their resurrection day, step from the cliffs and process 
through the town like circus beasts) belong to the end of the 



Tertiary era; the rise of the maranials at the beginning of 
that era and the extinction of the giant Cretaceous reptiles is 
one of the most dramatic events to be recorded in these 

Tyrannosaurus and the iguanodons, the gigantic ptero- 
dactyls and the mososaurs seemed secure in their rule of land, 
air and sea. The small furry mammals that had been con- 
ducting their affairs so hmnbly since Permian times, often 
crunched Hke salted almonds in colossal jaws or hurled to 
limbo by a carelessly swung tail, even late in the Cretaceous 
still appeared to have notliing on their side. Yet by the late 
Eocene the large reptiles had disappeared, leaving only bones 
to awaken future memories, while the maxnmals had leapt 
to fill their lebensraum with an extraordinary exuberance. 
Like flowers and vegetables planted for the first time in 
virgin soil, they acliieved at once their most extravagant 
forms. Indeed, they nearly rivalled the fantastic excesses of 
the reptiles, and hke the reptiles these early mammals have 
died out and left no descendants. Many of them were 
elephantine or rhinocerine in appearance, and their skulls, 
overloaded with great bony knobs and horns, had so much 
the less room for brains. 

Meanwhile, however, the ancestors of most modem 
species were establishing themselves; with unconscious wis- 
dom they avoided high speciaHzation, remaining lightly 
armoured and small in size. The forebears of our cows and 
horses, for example, were about the size of fox terriers, 
although already their hoofs were moving towards those 
cleft and single forms whose prints in mud or dust small 
children always love to distinguish. The smaller reptiles had 
not been ousted with their megalomaniac kin. There were 
alligators and turtles in English rivers, tortoises were begin- 



ning their cautious career on land. Indeed, in Eocene times, 
when that dreary deposit the London Clay was being laid 
down, the cHmate was tropical. Our seas swarmed with 
sharks and their shores were fringed with palm trees and 
other tropical evergreens whose leaves are found preserved 
in the cliffs of the Isle of Wight and Bournemouth. 
(Visitors sheltering from the rain at Alum Bay or 
Blackgang Chine may like to dream of the steady blue 
skies of Eocene summers.) Piles of die fruit of Nipa 
palms, now surviving in Malayan swamps, drifted into 
the mud that has formed the London Clay of the Isle of 

Further north the climate was more temperate and Scot- 
land was clodicd with deciduous trees such as plane and oak, 
as well as conifers and maidcnliairs. 

Climbing, leaping and chattering in die tropical vegeta- 
tion of southern England, nibbling fruits and insects, there 
were already early representatives of the primates ; descended 
from tree shrews, and related to the lemurs and tarsiers, 
they were remotely ancestral to ourselves. 

The convulsions of die Miocene Age probably speeded the 
swing of the cUmate to the much cooler conditions pre- 
vaihng by the end of the Caenozoic era. In the woods and 
grassland of that time the mammals still flourished, although 
they may have passed die zenith of their strength and 
variety. In southern and eastern England the open country 
of the PHocene supported herds of horses (now grown to the 
size of very small ponies) antelopes, gazelles, and many kinds 
of elephant, including mastodon. In the woods there were 
deer and monkeys. The carnivore of these days now most 
notorious among us is surely the sabre-toothed tiger. To 
make it as ferocious as possible, and to display the long 



&ngs to their best advantage, illustrators always show this 
beast with its mouth wide open, so wide open that one 
might beheve it to be dislocated. I have never seen a picture 
of a sabre-toothed tiger with its mouth shut, and I suspect 
that many people must assume that diey never were shut, 
but were fixed in a monstrous snarl like those stiU occasion- 
ally to be seen in the stuflcd heads of tiger-skin rugs on the 
floors of country houses. 

Among all the mammals which were making experiments 
in Uving before the Ice Age, the primates were proving most 
successful. It seems that man, like the elephant, originated in 
Africa. Manlike apes, such as the decorously named species. 
Proconsul, evolved in the continent which their descendants 
were to call dark. In Africa, too, cros so strengthened tlieir 
mounting consciousness that diese creatures began to use, 
and even to shape, sticks and stones to help them to secure 
and prepare their food. Consciousness was concentrating 
itself in their still simian skulls. First life and now conscious- 
ness had grown from that pre-Cambrian planet of granite 
and water. As colours intensified in birds and then in 
flowers, so consciousness was intensifying through the apes, 
the man-like apes and primitive man. After this point there 
was no going back, the development of the human mind, 
the isolation of the human being lay at the end of the road 
that was then chosen. Yet even now the citadels of individual 
self-consciousness are always being stormed by death, and 
even in Ufe we surrender them every day to sleep. It seems 
a part of some urge to reverse the process of intensification, 
to let mind return to its matrix. Sometimes when I am 
tired and consumed by a longing for sleep, a gentle but 
irresistible invasion from the outer world seems to take 
possession of me and I feel that consciousness wishes only 



to flow back into that world and dissolve there. Rilke wrote 
of ‘gold’: 

The ore is homesick. It is eager 
to leave the mints and turning wheels 
that offer it a life so meagre 
from coffers and from factories 
It would flow back into the veins 
of gaping mountains whence it came, 
that close upon it onu again. 

From the end of the Caenozoic it was too late, conscious- 
ness was bound, at least for a spell, to the coffers and the 

When the temperate climate of Pliocene times was giving 
way before the intense cold of the Pleistocene Ice Age the 
transfer of Britain’s geographical allegiance from the North 
American continent to Europe was complete. The British 
area formed a bulge on the western extremity of a 
European continent, while the sea had made its decisive 
break between it and Greenland. Ireland was already cut off, 
and lay as an island off the coast of the bulge. 

It is now almost as familiar as 1066 that ‘the Ice Age may 
be divided into four main glacial periods divided by warmer 
interglacials’. At the first onset of the cold, vast icesheets 
reached Britain from Scandinavia, but in the later cold 
phases the icesheets and glaciers were home-produced, 
originating in the mountains of Wales, north-eastern 
England and Scotland. The ice attained its greatest extent 
during the second glaciation when its southern limits ran 
from the mouth of the Severn to the north side of the mouth 
of the Thames. Even at this time the stout bulk of the Cleve- 
land hi ll s probably made a barrier showing as a grim black 
island against the glistening expanse of the glacier. Never 
again did the ice extend so far to the south. Nor in its later 



advances did it present a solid front, but pushed down in 
three tongues, one along the west side of the Pennines, a 
smaller central one down the vale of York, and a massive 
eastern tongue most of which overlay the present North Sea 
but which extended down the eastern half of Yorkshire and 
Lincolnshire, its tip reaching as far as Norfolk. 

During these later glaciations, by damming the natural 
outlet of nortliward-flowing rivers, die ice formed a num- 
ber of large lakes, all of which have left their mark on the 
country. The imprisoned waters of the Trent and Yorkshire 
Ouse made Lake Humber, a great bleak expanse of water 
running from central Yorkshire right down into the Mid- 
lands, while beside it an equally large Fenland lake was filled 
by the rivers that should have drained into the Wash. The 
Derwent ponded up in the Vale of Pickering, where its 
waters washed the southern scarp of the North Riding hills. 
This Lake Pickering at last forced a new outlet to the south, 
a course still followed by the Derwent, which, although it 
rises only a few hundred yards from the North Sea, flows 
slowly down to the Yorksliire Ouse and so into the Humber. 
The lake itself has left its traces where die floor of die Vale of 
Pickering remains waterlogged and peaty. Away to the west 
of the Pennines the last of these glacial lakes was formed by 
the ponded waters of the Dee that spread over much of the 
country round and to the north of Shrewsbury. Here, too, 
the future course of one of our greatest rivers was affected, 
for the pressure of the lake cut the famous gorge of the 
Severn at Ironbridge and so assured the oddly bent course of 
the future river. While all the other lakes, Humber, Fen- 
land and Pickering, have regional names, this one has been 
called Lake Lapworth after the well-known Birmingham 
geologist. So an icy expanse of water, anonymous while it 



existed, will now always be known by the name of a dead 

The land that had been a patch of the sea-bed, that had 
been lifted into lofty ranges and worn down again, that had 
supported lagoons and coral atolls, that had been heavy with 
tropical vegetation and then again desert, was now hidden 
xmder ice and snow. Soil burnt red by a pitiless sun was now 
in harsh contact with the white cutting edge of the ice. In 
winter the land lay rigid under the frost, in smnmer it was 
furrowed by turbulent glacial streams, heavy with the grits, 
pebbles and boulders which they were carrying from tlie 
melting edge of the ice to spread them in wide fans over the 
surrounding country. Stand at Moreton-in-die-Marsh, in 
that sweet, mild, agricultural coimtry of the Cotswolds, and 
imagine it as the meeting place of two gigantic glaciers, one 
thrusting eastward from Wales, the other advancing against 
it from the Midlands. Or stand where the traffic roars dovra 
Finchley Road and see it instead filled by the ragged tip of 
the most southerly of the glaciers: from desolation to desola- 

Although the bony structure and most of the flesh parts of 
Britain were created before the Ice Age, these glaciations, as 
the last major event before men began their own trans- 
formation of the land, added many of the superficial 
features on which men had to work. In the mountains 
glaciers drove down the valleys fike a gouge, deepening and 
rounding their bottoms and often leaving the tributary 
valleys cut off so high above that their streams now fall in 
graceful waterfalls to the main river. In lowland country, the 
ice was a great leveller, grinding away all precarious oddities 
as a social democracy levels its eccentrics. It reduced the face 
of the land to gentle, sometimes monotonous, imdulations, 



broken only where the haadest igneons rocks were able to 
resist the ice. Often on the lee of one of these volcanic 
barriers a sloping ramp of deposits would accumulate below 
the ice just as a talus of sand forms behind a w'ave-swept 
stone. Up such a glacial ramp the Royal Mile leads to 
Edinburgh Castle — itself clamped to the solidified core of a 
Miocene volcano. 

The action at the head of a valley was very different. There 
the root of the glacier clawed at the mountain from which it 
sprang, plucking at its flank until a precipice was formed, 
and grouting a rocky basin at its foot. This was the origin of 
those mysterious and romantic mountain lakes, the cwms 
and corries of Wales and Scodand, whose stillness seems to 
be enhanced by the savage crags above them. Their brood- 
ing emotional quality, their power to heighten a sense of 
solitude, has always drawn romantic painters to these glacial 
lakes, and so they arc recreated through Wilson, Girtin, 

While icesheets and glaciers that were advancing or 
maintainin g themselves gouged and ground away the soft 
parts of the land, in retreat they played an opposite role. 
When they melted they left ridges of boulders, stone and 
soil along their edge, while from beneath them they let 
fall blankets of clay and stones that muffled the face of the 
coimtryside. Sometimes, as well as these even blankets of 
boulder clay, the ice left the pear-shaped mounds called 
drumlins which arc among the most regular of natural for- 
mations. In some Yorkshire dales where the drumlins lie 
along the valley bottom like a flock of giant sheep, each one 
carries a bam on its back built there to escape floods; large 
ones have been used as natural mottes for castles. 

The joke about Dr. Spooner and erotic blacks has made 


CREATION Of rm-; loweands 

many people familiar with the idea of erratic blocks. 
Glaciers and floating icebergs often carried fragments of rock 
far from their place of origin and dropped them in alien sur- 
roundings, sometimes perched in odd and precarious 
positions. Shap granite from the Lake District is found on 
the east side of the Pemiines, granite from the Cheviots has 
come to rest in southern England, icebergs carried Welsh 
and Irish rocks as far as die Scilly Isles, while die first glacia- 
tion brought us fragments tom from Norwegian mountain 

Britain still shows the marks of a recent glaciation, most 
clearly in innumerable bogs and meres that have been 
formed by interference with die natural lines of drainage or 
by the existence of wide hollows scooped out by the ice. 
The Cheshire Plain, for instance, with its scatter of meres, is 
plainly country from wliich the ice has only recently with- 
drawn. The warm spell in which we are hving has not yet 
lasted for more than a small fraction of one of die inter- 
glacials of the Ice Age. Perhaps as a respite from our brief 
anxieties we might reflect on this simple statement taken 
from an official handbook: ‘Judging from the past the exist- 
ence of ice in the polar regions at the present day is abnormal. 
It is uncertain whether in the course of the next ten or twenty 
thousand years all polar and arctic ice will disappear, or 
whether it will become more extensive, and parts of the 
northern hemisphere be once again covered by ice.’ 

It was about twenty thousand years ago when for the last 
time the ice sheets and glaciers began to contract. Each year 
the winter’s freezing failed quite to overtake the summer’s 
thaw. From time to time the retreat was checked and the ice 
remained stationary for centuries; but always it was resumed 
until the icesheets reached their present ‘abnormal’ limits 




round the North Pole, and the glaciers disappeared from 
all but the Alps and the highest Scandinavian mountains. 

HaAdng been freed from tlie ice, Britain passed in the 
course of time through those phases of vegetation that can 
still be encountered in the sequence of geographical zones. 
At first, while the climate remained bitterly cold, open 
tundra prevailed with its scatter of willow, birch and pine; 
later this was invaded by a much denser growth of pine, and 
finally the gloomy evergreen forests were themselves super- 
seded by the fresher green of oak, elm and lime. The beech, 
now such a lovely and characteristic part of southern 
England, was the latest arrival among the deciduous trees; 
it was still rare in this country until two or three thousand 
years ago. 

Possibly the warming of the climate which caused the 
change from pine to mixed oak forest was itself due to 
the final isolation of Britain from the continent. This 
severance, by allowing the free circulation of the warmer 
water from the west, would have helped to shield Britain 
from the severe continental cUmate and to bring instead 
warm, moist Atlantic conditions. 

Certainly these two developments which are now so 
essential a part of the character of the country, its isolation 
and its clothing in fresh green vegetation, took place at much 
the same time. After about 6000 b.c. the greatest changes in 
the personality of Britain were to be made by men. 

In these two chapters I have recalled something of the 
creation of the land of Britain during five hundred million 
years. Piece by piece through all the changes of time the 
stufi* of Britain has accumulated and has been carved to its 
present shape — piece by piece, advancing always from the 
ancient rocks of the north-west to the young clays, sands and 



gravels of the south--east. At the end of it, no country has a 
more complex structure and more various scenery than our 

Together with this creation of a country I have recalled 
the strengthening of consciousness to the point at which in 
the mind of man it was ready to turn upon the land that had 
nourished it. 

Apart from the few great upheavals in the earth’s crust, 
natural change can never have had so rapid or so con- 
spicuous an effect as those wrought by men during the last 
ten thousand years. From their first tentative experiments at 
felling trees with flint axes, diey have cleared whole regions 
of forest, have made lakes, drained fens and changed the 
course of rivers, they have honeycombed the Carboniferous 
strata and burnt much of them, they have plundered the 
accumulations of many ages and used the plunder to cover 
the surface of the country with roads, houses and cities. They 
have changed plants and animals to serve their own ends 
with ten diousand times the speed of evolution, and, by 
substituting these creations of their own for the natural 
animals and vegetation, have completed the transformation 
of the land. 


Digression on Rocks, Soils and Men 

1 IFE HAS GROWN froxii thc rock and still rests upon 
it; because men have left it far bcliind, they are able 
consciously to turn back to it. We do turn back, for 
it has kept some hold over us. A liberal rationalist. 
Professor G. M. Trevelyan, can write of ‘the brotherly love 
that we feel ... for trees, flowers, even for grass, nay even 
for rocks and water’ and of ‘our brother the rock’ ; thc stone 
of Scone is still used in the coronation of our kings. 

The Church, itself founded on the rock of Peter, for cen- 
turies fought unsuccessfully against thc worship of ‘sticks 
and stones’. Such pagan notions have left memories in thc 
circles and monoliths that still jut tlirough thc heather on our 
moorlands or stand naked above thc turf of our downs. I 
believe that they linger, too, however faintly, in our 
churchyards — for who, even at thc height of its popularity, 
ever willingly used cast-iron for a tombstone? 

It is true that these stones were never simply themselves, 
but stood for dead men, were symbols of fertility, or, as at 
Stonehenge, were primarily architectural forms. But for 
worshippers the idea and its physical symbol are ambivalent; 
peasants worship the Mother of God and the painted doll in 
front of them; the peasants and herdsmen of prehistoric times 
honoured thc Great Mother or the Sky God, thc local 
divinities or thc spirits of their ancestors and also thc stones 
associated with them. The Blue Stones of Stonehenge, for 
example, were evidently laden with sanctity. It seems that 
these slender monoliths were brought from Pembrokeshire 



to Salisbury Plain because in Wales dicy had already 
absorbed holiness from their use in some other sacred struc- 
ture. There is no question here that the veneration must 
have been in part for the stones themselves. 

Up and down die country, whether they have been set up 
by men, isolated by weathering, or by melting ice, con- 
spicuous stones arc coimnonly identified with human beings. 
Most of our Bronze Age circles and menhirs have been 
thought by the country people living round them to be men 
or women turned to stone. The names often help to express 
this identification and its implied sense of kinship; Long Meg 
and her Daughters, the Nine Maidens, the Bridestonc and 
the Merry Maidens. It is right that they should most often be 
seen as women, for somewhere in the mind of everyone is an 
awareness of woman as earth, as rock, as matrix. In all these 
legends human beings have seen themselves melting back 
into rock, in their imaginations must have pictured the body, 
linibs and hair melting into smoke and sohdifying into these 
blocks of sandstone, limestone and granite. 

Some feeling that represents the converse of this idea 
arises from sculpture. I have never forgotten my oivn excite- 
ment on seeing in a Greek exhibition an unfinished statue in 
which the upper part of the body was perfect (though the 
head still carried a m a ntle of chaos) while the lower part dis- 
appeared into a rough block of stone. I felt that the limbs 
were already in existence, that the sculptor had merely been 
uncovering them, for his soundings were there — little 
tunnels reaching towards the position of the legs, feeling for 
them in the depths of the stone. The sculptor is in &ct doing 
this, for the act of creation is in liis mind, from his niind the 
form is projected into the heart of the stone, where then the 
chisel must reach it. 



Rodin was one of the sculptors most conscious of these 
emotions, and most ready to exploit them. He expressed 
both aspects of the process — ^man merging back into the 
rock, and man dctacliing himself from it by the power of 
hfe and mind. He was perhaps incUned to sentimentalize the 
relationship by dwelling on the softness of the flesh in 
contrast with the rock’s harshness. This was an irrelevance 
not dreamt of by the greatest exponent of the feeling — 
Michelangelo. It is fitting that the creator of the mighty 
figures of Night and Day should liimself have spent many 
days in the marble quarries of Tuscany supervising the 
removal of his material from the side of the mountain. So 
conscious was he of the individual quahty of die marble and 
of its influence on sculpture and architecture that he was 
willing to endure a long struggle with the Pope and at last 
to suffer heavy financial loss by maintaining the superiority 
of Carrara over Servezza marble. Michelangelo was an 
Itahan working widi Italian marble and Italian light; widi 
us it has been unfortunate that since medieval tinies so many 
of our sculptors have sought the prestige of foreign stones 
rather than following the idiom of dieir native rock. It is 
part of the wisdom of our greatest sculptor, Henry Moore, 
to have returned to English stones and used them with a 
subtle sensitiveness for their personal qualities. He may have 
inherited something from his father who, as a miner spend- 
ing his working life in the Carboniferous horizons of York- 
shire, must have had a direct understanding not only of coal 
but of the sandstones and shales in which it lies buried and on 
which the life of the miner depends. Henry Moore has him- 
self made studies of miners at work showing their bodies 
very intimate with the rock yet charged with a life that 
separates them from it. (Graham Sutherland in his studies of 



tin mines became preoccupied with the hollow forms of the 
tunnels and in them liis men appear ahnost embryonic.) 

Henry Moore uses his understanding of the personality of 
stones in his sculpture, allowing their individual qualities to 
contribute to his conception. Indeed, he may for a moment 
be regarded in the passive role of a sympathetic agent giving 
expression to the stone, to the silting of ocean beds shown in 
those fine bands that curve with the sculpture's curves, and 
to the quality of die Hfe that shows itself in die delicate 
markings made by shells, corals and sea-hhes. 

It would certainly be inappropriate to his time if Moore 
habitually used the Italian marbles so much in favour since 
the Renaissance. For this fashion shows how man in his 
greatest pride of conscious isolation wanted stone which was 
no more than a beautiful material for his mastery. Now 
when our minds are recalling the past and our own origins 
deep within it, Moore reflects a greater humility in avoiding 
the white silence of marble and allowing his stone to speak. 
That is why he has often chosen a stone like Hornton, a rock 
from die Lias that is full of fossils all of which make their 
statement when exposed by liis chisel. Sometimes the stone 
may be so assertive of its own qualities that he has to batde 
with it, strive against the hardness of its shells and the soft- 
ness of adjacent pockets to make them, not efface themselves, 
but conform to liis idea, his sense of a force thrusting from 
widiin, wliich must be expressed by taut lines without weak- 
ness of surface. 

Moore uses Hornton stone also because it has two colours, 
a very pale brown and a green widi deeper tones in it. The 
first serves him when he is conscious of liis subject as a light 
one, the green when it must have darkness in it. Differences 
in climate round the shores of the Liassic lakes probably 



caused the change in colour of Hornton stone, and so past 
chmates are reflected in the feeling of these sculptures. As 
for the sculptor’s sense of hght or darkness inherent in his 
subjects, it is my belief tliat it derives in large part from the 
perpetual experience of day and night to which all conscious- 
ness has been subject since its beginnings. The sense of light 
and darkness seems to go to the depths of man’s mind, and 
whether it is applied to morality, to aesthetics or to that 
more general conception — the light of intellectual processes 
in contrast with the darkness of the subconscious — ^its 
symbolism surely draws from our constant swing below the 
cone of night. 

It is hardly possible to express in prose the extraordinary 
awareness of the unity of past and present, of mind and 
matter, of man and man’s origin which these thoughts bring 
to me. Once when I was in Moore’s studio and saw one of 
his reclining figures with the shaft of a belemnitc exposed in 
the thigh, my vision of this unity was overwhelming. I felt 
that the squid in which life had created that shape, even 
while it still swam in distant seas was involved in tliis 
encounter with the sculptor; that it lay hardening in the mud 
until the time when consciousness was ready to find it out 
and imagination to incorporate it in a new form. So a poet 
will sometimes take fragments and echoes from other earher 
poets to sink them in his own poems where they will enrich 
the new work as these fossil outlines of former lives enrich 
the sculptor’s work. 

Rodin pursued the idea of conscious, spiritual man emerg- 
ing from the rock; Moore sees him ratlier as always a part 
of it. Through his visual similes he identifies women with 
caverns, caverns with eye-sockets; shells, bones, cell plasm 
drift into human form. Surely Mary Anning might have 



found one of his forms in the Blue Lias of Lyme Regis? 
That indeed would be fitting, for I have said that the Blue 
Lias is like the smoke of memory, of the subconscious, and 
Moore’s creations float in diose depths, where images melt 
into one another, the direct source of poetry, and the distant 
source of nourishment for the conscious intellect with its 
clear and fixed forms. I can see his rounded shapes like 
whales, his angular shapes like ichthyosaurs, surfacing for a 
moment into that world of intellectual clarity, but plunging 
down again to the sea bottom, the sea bottom where the 
rocks arc silently forming. 

Men know their affinity with rock and widi soil, but they 
also use them, at first as simply as coral organisms use 
calcium, or as caddis-worms use shell and pebbles, but soon 
also consciously to express imagined ideas. 

Building is one of the activities relating men most 
directly to their land. Everyone who travels inside Britain 
knows those sudden changes between region and region, 
from areas where houses are built of brick or of timber 
and daub and fields are hedged, to those where houses 
are of stone and fields enclosed by drystone walling. Every- 
where in the ancient moimtainous country of the west 
and nordi stone is taken for granted; where the sudden 
appearance of walls instead of hedges catches the eye is along 
the belt of Jurassic Hmestones, often sharply delimited. 
The change is most dramatic in Lincolnshire where the 
limestone of Lincoln Edge is not more than a few miles wide 
and the transformation from hedges to the geometrical 
austerity of dry-walling, from the black and white, red and 
buff of timber and brick to the melting greys of limestone 
buildings, is extraordinarily abrupt. 

The distinctive quaUties of the stones of each geological 



age and of each region powerfully affect the architecture 
raised up from them; if those qualities precisely meet par- 
ticular needs then, of course, the stones arc carried out of 
their own region. Since the eighteenth century the value of 
special qualities in building material has greatly outweighed 
the labour of transport, and stones of many kinds have not 
only been carried about Britain to places far from tliose 
where they were originally formed, but have been sent 
overseas to all parts of the world. Men, in fact, have 
proved immensely more energetic than rivers or glaciers 
in transporting and mixing the surface deposits of the 

Now the process has gone too far; what was admirable 
when it concerned only the transport of the finest materials 
to build the greatest buildings has become damnable when 
dictated by commercial expediency. The cheapness of 
modem haulage has blurred the clear outlines of locality in 
this as in all other ways; slate roofs appear among Norfolk 
reed beds, red brick and tile in the heart of stone country, 
while cities weigh down the land with huge masses of stone, 
brick, iron, steel, and artificial marble dragged indiscrimin- 
ately from far and near. 

Nevertheless, there are still regional differences that will 
hardly disappear. Britain would sink below the sea before a 
Yorkshireman would buy Scottish granite to build his town 
hall, or an Aberdonian outrage his granite city with a bank 
of Millstone Grit. The danger is that Britain will not sink 
below the sea, but simply into a new form of undifferen- 
tiated chaos, when both Yorkshireman and Scot adopt 
artificial stone and chromium hung on boxes of steel and 

While, on the one hand, it is admitted that even in the 



twentieth century regional differences still persist, it would, 
on the otlier, be false to suggest that even when all transport 
was by wind or muscle stone was not sometimes moved 
about the country. If the Blue Stones of Stonehenge are die 
most startling prehistoric instance, for the early Middle Ages 
it is the importation of Caen stone. Very many cargoes of 
this oohtic limestone were shipped from Normandy to 
build our abbeys and cathedrals. Often it was ordered by the 
great Norman clerics who, in a hostile land, found reassur- 
ance in building with their native rock. The genes of the 
Norman conquerors arc now mingled with those of most 
of our royal and noble families, and through them also Caen 
stone has been incorporated in our most sacred national 
buildings — old St. Paul’s, Canterbury Cathedral, West- 
minster Abbey. 

It was of course most usually for ecclesiastical buildings 
and for castles that stone was sliipped and carted about 
Britain, particularly to those youthful parts of lowland 
England south-east of die Jurassic belt. The material for 
Ely Cathedral and other great East Anghan churches came 
from Bamack in Nordiamptonshire, as did that for Barn- 
well, Romscy and Thomey abbeys and many of the early 
college buildings at Cambridge. The lower courses of King’s 
chapel at Cambridge, the foundation stone laid by Henry 
VI, came from the Permian Limestone of Yorkshire, while, 
after the long interruption in building, the upper courses 
were constructed of Jurassic stone from Northamptonshire, 
the personal gift to the college of Henry VII. The fan vault- 
ing of the roof, however, those exquisite artificial stalactites, 
are again carved from a Permian deposit — the noted Roche 
Abbey quarries in Yorkshire. So in one building the Permian 
and Jurassic ages, the north and the Midlands have been 



made tributary to royal and scholastic pride, the service of 
God and the imagination of man. I have brought in these 
facts far from their proper place, to suggest a truth which is 
perhaps too obvious to need such attention. That the centre 
of gravity of a people in any age may be expected to be 
found in the objects for which they will transport great 
quantities of building material. Neohthic communities 
hauled megalithic blocks to their communal tombs, Bronze 
Age men did the same for their temples, the Iron Age Celts 
amassed materials for their tribal strongholds, the Romans 
for their xniHtary works and pubhe buildings; medieval 
society sweated for its churches, colleges and castles. An 
exceptionally abrupt transition is shown when in Tudor times 
not only was much new material taken to build mansions 
and palaces, but great quantities of stone were actually carried 
away from rehgious buildings for these secular uses. With 
the exception of the building and rebuilding of London 
churches, until the end of the eighteenth century stone con- 
tinued to be transported mainly to great town and country 
houses or occasionally to public buildings. The Victorians 
moved unprecedented masses of stone for town halls, 
exchanges, museums, government offices, Houses of Par- 
liament, as well as for factories and docks. In the twentieth 
century material, no longer usually in its natural state, has 
been concentrated on vast industrial offices, power stations, 
luxury flats, central and local govenunent offices and once 
again, diough with moderation, on schools and colleges. 
We have also practised a wholesale adaptation of buildings 
(mostly from private to public purposes) which seems to 
indicate a lack of vitality. 

What arc the qualities which have attracted men to the 
different stones formed in such varied conditions— on ocean 



floors, in salt lakes and lagoons, by the eruption of vol- 

Granite — it seems inevitable to begin with granite, even 
though so many people have ended with it, lying under 
those glossy pinkish slabs labelled in gold or black and some- 
times crowned with a stony wreath. Tlie royal mausoleum 
at Frogmore is built of Dartmoor granite, while inside it, the 
thirty-ton sarcophagus in which the anxieties of the Prince 
Consort were laid to rest is of granite too, but Scottish 
granite, a genuine blue Peterhead from Aberdeen. The 
Queen loved granite because she hated change; at her 
express wish nineteen varieties representing the principal 
Aberdeen granites were used to ornament the pulpit at 
Balmoral. The mausoleum and sarcophagus at Frogmore 
represent the two main sources of granite: Scotland and the 
south-western peninsula. Detached blocks of granite have 
been used in their own localities since the beginning of our 
architecture — for mcgalitliic tombs, for standing stones and 
sacred avenues, for early Christian crosses — but it was not 
until the eighteenth century that it was quarried for any- 
thing more than rough local purposes, and even then with 
great difficulty. Some of the first from Cornwall was used 
for the outside of Smeaton’s ill-fated Eddystone lighthouse, 
then both Devon and Aberdeen granite went into Rennie’s 
Waterloo Bridge (I seem to remember that on its demoli- 
tion the balusters were sold as mementoes, and must now 
be scattered up and down the country). With the Victorians, 
and how appropriately, granite came into its own; the 
substance of wild moorlands was transformed into kerb- 
stones, railway bridges, into post offices, public fountains 
and public houses, family fish-shops, and above all, into 



Ironically, this rock, the pillar of Victorianism, a symbol 
for endurance, can also remind us of insecurity and im- 
permanence, coming as it does directly from the restless 
quag beneath us, the molten sea on which our wafer floats. 
For die basalts and other igneous rocks that are the products 
of actual volcanic eruption little use has been found except 
for road making. Visitors to the Lake District may know 
that Keswick is largely built of the volcanic ash of Borrow- 
dalc, the particles now held in the walls of its cottages and 
flower gardens once having fallen in fiery cascades onto an 
Ordovician sea. 

For the mason there is an important distinction between 
granite and other igneous rocks and the sedimentary 
deposits of whatever age. Normally the layers of silt form- 
ing the sedimentary rocks have given them a grain which 
the mason must study almost as carefully as a carpenter 
studies his wood. These layers, having been laid down 
horizontally, must be kept horizontal in their human setting, 
for in this position they can better throw off rainwater. 
Rocks of so fine and close a grain that no layering is visible 
are called freestones, for the mason is free to cut and set 
them as he will. There are perfectionists, however, who 
maintain diat even with freestones every block should be 
marked in the quarry so that it may be kept in its natural 

There is another characteristic of the sedimentary rocks of 
very great significance for mason and builder. All newly cut 
stone is permeated with ‘quarry water’ which holds various 
minerals either dissolved or in suspension. On exposure the 
quarry water is drawn gradually to the surface where it eva- 
porates, depositing the minerals near the surface and so form- 
ing a tough outer skin. It is therefore most desirable that 



every block should first be cut into its final shape and then be 
seasoned to allow it to go into the building with the skin 
unbroken. In this way it is assured that mouldings, leaves, 
noses and other excrescences have the best possible chance to 
survive weathering. Christopher Wren, an artist properly 
sensitive to his materials, would use no block in St. Paul’s 
unless it had been exposed for at least three years. 

The oldest pre-Cambrian and Cambrian rocks do not 
usually make good building stone as they have been shat- 
tered and faulted by the experience of hundreds of millions 
of years. In Shropsliire the pre-Cambrian rocks of the 
Longmynd plateau, dull red and green with lighter veining, 
are now tipped so that the strata stand vertically on edge, 
and are so minutely shattered that their surface looks like a 
finely wrinkled skin. They are bad for building; there are 
not even any dry-walls on the Longmynd moors, while the 
farms and cottages round its foot are generally of brick or 
timber. The neighbouring small town of Church Stretton, 
however, has been given a curiously dark complexion by the 
use of reddish and purple Ordovician rocks. These come 
from the other side of its lush green valley where the proud 
line of hills reacliing from Caer Caradoc to the Wrekin, 
though buttressed and crenellated with pre-Cambrian vol- 
canic rocks, also yields these warmly coloured sandstones 
which are among the few Ordovician formations to have 
been widely employed for building. 

The one creation of these most remote ages that man has 
seized upon with avidity are the North Welsh slates formed 
from the fine dark muds that once lay on Cambrian sea 
floors. This antique mud has been hardened by pressure, 
faulted and cleaved until it readily splits into thin, impervious 
sheets. They may be hard, mean and monotonous when 



compared with good clay or stone tiles, but tliey are effective, 
a material well fitted to their own grey climate. Here in 
London I look out from my top windows over a realm of 
slate, every square of which has been carried across England 
to this region of clays and gravels. 

Slates will survive for a time overhead, but they have 
already been displaced from one small but honourable ser- 
vice. When she first took me to school, my mother hunted 
out a slate, a little rectangle of Cambrian mud framed in 
wood and with a morsel of sponge tied to one comer. With 
it went a slim cylinder of the same stuff— a slate pencil. Even 
my infant mind was certain that she was wrong, I seemed to 
know that I belonged to a generation for which such simple 
natural products were improper. It was as anomalous as a 
horn book. Of course I proved to be right; I was full of 
shame and horror for my slate — ^which is why I can still see 
it so plainly — a survival from a passing age endangering my 
first day at school. 

Even the demand for roofing slates is, I suppose, already 
dwindling. Not long ago, I climbed up a moimtain side in 
North Wales and found an abandoned slate quarry half 
hidden in a tributary valley. It must once have had a settle- 
ment, a small community of quarrymen, for beside the 
tremendous but now partly overgrown gulfs where hun- 
dreds of tons of slate had been hacked from the mountain, 
there was a row of ruined stone cottages with naked rafters 
and floors buried under their fallen roofs. Opposite was the 
big workshop where the slate had been split and cut. Mag- 
nificent squared slabs of it, too heavy to hft, were still lean- 
ing against the walls, and the whole floor, as well as the 
space between the workshop and the cottages, was strewn 
with many layers of discarded fragments, like heavy leaves. 

rhiv the tlav of reptile imperiali' 


‘By now thf aninionitc's wru* assmning bizarre and deeadem forms’ (sec p. Si ) 


It was perfectly silent and melancholy. Moving sharply, I 
startled a troup of homed sheep nibbling at the grass which 
thrust up where it could between the stones. Like the horses 
of some defeated army they wheeled away down the moun- 
tain side, and I can still recall the brittle sound of their hoofs 
on the waste of slates and the dwindling echoes of the small 
fragments sent flying into the depths of the quarries. This 
place, with its ribbing of bare rafters, was, I felt, the skeleton 
of a superseded form of Ufe, a fossil standing in full dayUght. 

The deposits laid down after the building of our highland 
mountains, products of violent denudation, have no special 
virtue ftir man. Yet the old Red Sandstone has been well 
used locally and its desert heat colours many buildings in the 
west Midlands — Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucester- 
shire — and many parts of Scotland. Indeed, its use in 
Scotland is of special interest, for it was in the Old Red 
Sandstone pits on the shore of the Moray Firth that Hugh 
Miller worked as a quarryman and first exposed the 
Devonian fishes. 

The abundance of fish in tlie Devonian seas is responsible 
for the character of one of the most distinctive rocks of that 
age, the Caithness Flagstones, which have been sent all over 
the world for paving and for making stairs. In the middle of 
the nineteenth century Sir Roderick Murchison wrote; ‘The 
Flagstones of Caithness ... are in many places impregnated 
with bitumen chiefly resulting from the vast quantities of 
fishes embedded in them. The most durable and best quahdes, 
as flagstones, are derived from an admixture of this bitumen 
with finely laminated sUicious, calcareous and argilaceous 
particles, the whole forming a natural cement more im- 
pervious to moisture than any stone with which I am 
acquainted.’ After which it seems a rchef to quote an Ed- 
H 113 


Wardian source for the information that ‘Baron Liebig’s 
great establishment on the River Plate, in South America, 
for the manufacture of his well known meat extract, is 
floored throughout with Caithness flags’. 

Men had discovered the value of their inheritance from 
the Age of Fishes long before the Age of Meat Barons. 
Nearly four thousand years ago it was used to build the 
cruciform megalithic tomb of Maeshowe in the Orkneys, 
the finest monument of its kind in Britain. Here the habit 
of the Flagstone of splitting into perfect rectangular blocks 
has given the masonry of the burial chamber a neatness 
and regularity imique for its time — and also perhaps rather 
uninteresting. The place might almost be a concrete pill-box 
or air-raid shelter. On the other hand it must have been these 
smooth, well-jointed surfaces that tempted the Vikings who 
were sheltering in the tomb on some day during the 
twelfth century to take out their knives and engrave 
the runic writing and the fantastic Norse beasts that, 
thanks to the fish cement, have not changed from that 
day to this. 

Not far away from Maeshowe, an Early Bronze Age 
community took Caithness Flagstone to build their village of 
Skara Brae. They used it not only in small pieces for the dry- 
stone walls of the houses and in large sheets for the doors and 
doorways and for the paving and roof of the alleys, but also 
for household furniture. This, by some thousands of years 
the most antique furniture in Britain, includes dignified 
dressers, well-proportioned pieces with two shelves and cup- 
board room below. 

It is only with the Mountain Limestone, the Millstone 
Grit and the sandstones, limestones and shales of the Coal 
Measures — all the rocks made by the silting up of the Car- 



boniferous seas — that the activities of men become really 
great. The building raised from these formations must repre- 
sent the energy of several volcanic eruptions. More even than 
granite the rocks of this period are associated with the Vic- 
torian Age and seem to have some subtle harmony with it. It 
can be said that this Haison was entirely one of propinquity, 
that these rocks were so much worked during the nineteenth 
century because they occur in the north where the Industrial 
Revolution caused an unprecedented activity both in dig- 
ging down into the land and in building on its surface; that, 
indeed, the very quest for coal resulted directly in the quarry- 
ing of the contemporary Carboniferous rocks. Yet there is 
something more personal than this, something massive, 
enduring, grim and a little coarse-grained about these stones 
that seem to make them the ideal stuff for much Victorian 
architecture; something, too, about their dark greys and 
browns that recommends them for the Town Halls, Ex- 
changes, banks and prisons of our northern towns where 
their native sobriety is soon deepened by a mourning veil of 

I hesitate to give too simple an explanation of sympathies 
which in fact always nm in two directions; the Carboni- 
ferous rocks may have been well adapted to the character of 
the Victorian Age, but then the character of the Victorian 
Age would not have been the same without the Carboni- 
ferous rocks. 

The older formations of the period are not so fuUy 
involved in the activity of the Industrial Revolution. In 
Wensleydale, for instance, the Mountain Limestone wnth all 
its bmden of fossils is used for the walls dividing the rich 
pastures of the valley. The contemporary sandstone is 
quarried by the dalesmen for their farms and for the bams 



which, because of their Scandinavian inheritance, they Hke 
to scatter among their more distant fields. 

Again a sandstone of this early formation was brought 
down from Scotland for that elegantly romantic structure, 
the high arched bridge of King’s College, Cambridge. 
Another exalted connection is with the Dukes of Devon- 
shire. Among the Umestones of the Derbyshire Peak district 
there are some sufficiently crystallized by volcanic heat 
to take a high polish and to qualify, a Httle dubiously per- 
haps, for the name of marble. Some of these Derbyshire 
marbles are found on die estates of the Duke of Devonshire 
round Bakewell and so have been drawn into the magnetic 
field of Chatswordi. They have provided pedestals for 
Dukes to stand on, they have done much to enrich the 
interior of die house itself and have even thrust a pillar into 
the Ubrary. Their names are deUghtful, reminiscent of those 
friund in that miniature realm where fine artificiaUty and 
fantasy are still maintained by the most fastidious anglers, the 
fly-fishermen. Derby Black and Derby Fossil, Rosewood, 
Bird’s Eye and Duke’s Red. T. S. Eliot has said diat the past 
is ‘altered by the present as much as the present is directed 
by the past’. To me it seems that the whole Carboniferous 
episode, the silting and sinking of Tethys, is changed and 
enriched by the creation of these ornate trappings and these 
lively names. I hope that some day a newly created noble- 
man of originality (if there arc such) will choose to call him- 
self not after a place ■with which he is con n ected but after 
a period of time. 

I must quote one last example of the use of early Carboni- 
ferous stone because it shows rather deUghtfully how every 
moment of time has its exact and irrecoverable savour. 
Limestone from the Black Pasture quarries in Northumber- 



land was used by Roman engineers for a bridge across the 
North Tyne tliat was one of the greatest triumphs of their 
skill. Some of the piers, showing a curious feathered surface 
tooling, still survive. Only in the Lower Carboniferous 
could precisely that limestone have been formed; only the 
Romans would have tooled and used it in just that way, and 
certainly only someone who had had a nineteenth-century 
upbringing could have written this account of the piers: 
‘Two others are, when the waters are low and placid, to be 
seen in the bed of the stream. Blocks of masonry, which have 
resisted the roll of this impetuous river for more than seven- 
teen centuries are a sight worth seeing, even at the expense of 
being immersed in cold water to the full extent of the lower 

With the Millstone Grit and Coal Measure rocks I come 
at last to the formation that might have been laid down 
expressly for the use of nineteenth-century architects. Mill- 
stone Grit, whose harshness is sufficiently evoked by its 
name, has made Euston Station, Bradford Waterworks, 
Millwall Docks, the Town Hall at Newcastle, Board Schools 
in Sheffield, and Birmingham and Leicester Gaols. Coal 
Measure rocks provided the material for the Exchanges of 
Manchester and Liverpool, and for the Town Halls of Man- 
chester, Bradford and Leeds. Surely the weight of these 
buildings is enough to enforce the argument.^ 

The dour grey and brown rocks of the Carboniferous Age 
which are so apt an expression of the stubborn civic pride, the 
puritanical distrust of elegance and hght of our northern 
industrialists are followed by a return of the warm colours 
that commemorate the Permian and Triassic Ages, the 
renewed denudation of mountains in desert and heat. The 
New Red Sandstone glows pleasantly in many local churches 



and had its fling in the astonishing pile of the St. Pancras 
Hotel. For this period it is the Magnesian Limestones diat 
have had a national currency. Although they have given the 
material for many successful buildings up and down the 
country, they have also been responsible for one conspicuous, 
notorious and expensive failure. This was in the very shrine 
of our democratic institutions, the Houses of Parliament. 
While Barry and Pugin wxrc not very happily seeking to 
agree over the principles of Gothic design and the details of 
Gothic ornament, a Royal Conmiission w^as responsible for 
the choice of the stone in wdiicli their ideas wxre to be 
embodied. After earnest weighing of evidence, during which 
Portland stone most unfortunately was rejected, tlie Com- 
mission reported tliat ‘for crystalline character, combined 
with a close approach to the equivalent proportions cT car- 
bonate of lime and carbonate of magiiesia; for uniformity 
of structure, facility and economy in conversion, and for 
advantage of colour, the Magnesian Limestone or Dolojiiite 
of Bolsover Moor, and its neighbourhood, is, in our opinion, 
the most fit and proper material U) be employed in the pro- 
posed new Houses of Parliament’. But alas for semi- 
scientific pomposity when it is not anchored to cither real 
knowiedge or an intimate understanding of particular ficts. 
Before the buildings had risen above the level of their base- 
ments the Bolsover quarries were exhausted, and had in truth 
never yielded blocks large enough to serve the ambitions of 
Barry and Pugin. After further solemn and ill-informed dis- 
cussion it was decided to transfer to the Anston Stone 
Quarries, a few miles from Bolsover, but across the Derby- 
shire boundary into Yorksliire. As a result of tlic profound 
irresponsibility, the lack of contact with reality, characteris- 
tic of the ‘sound’ civil servant, the ‘stone w^as quarried and 



delivered indiscriminately, without regard to the nature of 
the bed, tlie lie of tlie rock in the quarry, or the necessary 
seasoning of die stone’. A few decades of exposure to the 
climate of London and particularly to its acid-charged rain, 
and the whole of that vast display of Gothic revivalism began 
to crumble and dissolve. All the heraldic and architectural 
detail, the coats of arms, crowns, gargoyles, canopies and 
finials, turned leprous, flaked and peeled, and, as dust or in 
solution, found their way into the Thames and so back to the 
sea. The nation has had to meet a heavy bill and is now con- 
fronted with an unsightly, mottled fi^ade witli its pale 
patches of Jurassic Clipsham among the darker Anston 
stone. For more than ten years the Victoria tower has stood 
above Westminster as a scaficilded ruin. There can hardly be 
a more revealing example of the disaster that threatens remote 
control, when men deal with practical matters on a diet of 
words. These solemn Commissioners, and these civil servants, 
w4\o doubtless liagglcd over sixpences with the most con- 
scientious futility, had never touched, seen, studied or under- 
stood the land they were attempting to use. That the cata- 
strophe could have been avoided is proved by the old 
Geoh^gical Museum. The stone for this building came at 
mucli the same time from the identical source, but its quarry- 
ing was supervised by Mary^ Anning’s old friend, de la 
Beche, a man who knew his rocks both scientifically and 
humanly. Hardly a block has decayed. 

The deposits formed by the hot and brackish Keuper 
lakes, although they have been well used in their own 
regions, most notably in Hereford Cathedral, have not 
generally been more widely sought. There is, however, one 
among them endowed with qualities which caused it to be 
transported not only about Britain but throughout Western 



Europe. The alabaster or gypsum laid down by the Kcuper 
lakes in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire has the indi- 
viduality, the high differentiation that always and in all 
thuigs makes a nucleus ofpower. It was easy to carve and tlic 
soft white of the sulphate of lime, sometimes tinged with a 
pale golden brovm, was given both delicacy and depth by 
its translucence. During the Middle Ages these virtues 
attracted round it a thriving school of sculpture. It was used 
not only for the effigies on vast numbers of tombs, for 
chantries and reredos (the one in St. George’s Chapel, 
Windsor, took ten cartloads) but also for small pieces — 
crucifixes, tabernacles, pictas, popular in this country and 
wddely on the Continent. Indeed, the Englishman travel- 
ling in Germany, the Low Countries, in France, or in 
Spain and Portugal, is more likely to come upon these 
pieces cut from his own hills than he is in the land from 
which tliey came. They arc not w^orks of art, but good 
artificers’ products with a piety and feeling preserved in 
traditional forms. Sometimes the lily was gilded, the glow- 
ing translucciicy of tlie stone completely masked behind 
skins of red, blue, green and gold itself. Did this mean that 
the carvers appreciated alabaster only as a material easily 
cut, delightful to smooth, or did they feel that these 
tinctures laid upon it gave their creations a double virtue, 
remaining always conscious of tlic inner light of the 
alabaster — that must indeed have given the colours an added 

The beds of Keuper alabaster are so narrowly limited that 
I seem to see it throughout geological time with the prelates 
ill their copes and mitres, the wasp-waisted noblemen and 
knights with lions at their feet and kirtled ladies with their 
little dogs, together with the forms of Christian icono- 



graphy already lying within ; negative fossils, shapes waiting 
for creation instead of surviving from it. 

Another stone of high individuality, formed just as tlie 
Keuper lakes were giving way to the Liassic sea, was to 
appeal to the inconstant eye of man long after the attrac- 
tion of alabaster had been forgotten. Gotham Marble from 
near Bristol had a strong appeal to interior decorators of the 
nineteenth century who employed it to add to the heavy 
elaboration of fireplaces and overmantels. Gases seeping 
tlirough Keuper mud have given Gotham Marble the 
curious markings that look like avenues of trees in heavy 
summer foliage. 1 remember that in our family museum 
(rather incongruously situated in the maids’ bathroom) 
there was a small slab of polished Gotham bearing one of 
these natural landscapes. 1 suspect that it came from some 
dismantled fireplace, a particle in the redeposition of this 
oniate stone that took place as changing tastes threw Vic- 
torian fashions on the scrap heap. 

In forming the oolitic limestones, the wide sea of the 
Jurassic Age made the greatest and fairest contribution to the 
buildings which in time were to be raised in Britain. For the 
last two thousand years, since masoned stone was introduced 
hy the Roman conquerors, the rocks of the Jurassic belt have 
been used for buildings of every kind, culminating in many 
of our finest mansions, colleges, churches and catliedrals. It 
was the most easterly deposit of any great extent old enough 
to make a hard building stone. For this reason it was not only 
quarried by its own population but was also sought by the 
increasing millions who lived on the younger formations to 
the east of it, people who had no native buildmg stone equal 
to expressing their imagination, wealth and ambition. 
Through centuries, carts, barges, ships, railway trucks and 



lorries have gone to the Jurassic belt and carried a way heavy 
cargoes to embody the architectural aspirations of the low- 
land English. The architect who held shaped in his mind a 
pier cluster, a sprocketed finial or a west front, a pediment, 
acanthus leaf or colonnade, whatever was appropriate to his 
moment of time, would seek to give it substance in these 
limestones with their great range of colours and textures. 

The oldest of the Jurassic deposits, the soft and crumbly 
Lias, had little value until our synthetic age when it has 
come into its own for the making of lime and cement. But 
from Somerset to Yorkshire the overlying oolites have been 
so much quarried that many of the best varieties are now 
exhausted. In the extreme south-west the Doulting quarries 
gave the material for Wells Cathedral and for Glastonbury, 
but Gloucestershire is the region where these limestones have 
done most to create an entire countryside. Men and sheep 
and the limestone hills have together made the Cots wold 
realm, with its small unchanging towns and church-proud 
villages, its hamlets and country houses, surely one of the 
most lovely stretches of rural urbanity in the world. All 
buildings from the low gabled cottages to the huge Perpen- 
dicular churches are walled, and should be roofed, with the 
stone on which they rest. All reflect its faint golden light, 
though the dry-stone walls seem to assume a greyer tone 
in contrast with the ruddy browns and russet of the Cots- 
wold soil. 

I have said ‘ should be roofed’ because some buildings have 
now lost the stone tiles that are their proper covering. There 
are several places in the Cotswolds where the special lime- 
stones necessary for these tiles can be quarried, but perhaps 
none is so well known as the Stonesficld pits near Oxford. 
There the tile beds were very thin and had to be pursued by 



means of shafts and horizontal tunnels. Tliis work was done 
between Michaelmas and Christmas, but once the pendle, as 
it was called, had been quarried, it had to be put in clamps 
until the first sharp frost. Extraordinary as it may seem, 
it could not be artificially split and the whole industry 
depended entirely on the help of frost. When it did come, 
and it was hoped for in January, every man in the village 
rallied to spread out the slabs of pendle; if it fell suddenly 
during the night the church bells were rung to summon the 
villagers. They must often have hurried up the street while 
the bell was still ringing through the frosty air; dien, dark 
figures in the moonlight, they attacked the clamps and 
strewed the big slabs on the stiffening grass. If the frost had 
done its work, the men gave the summer to shaping and 
piercing the thin sheets, each sitting in a little shelter of 
hurdles or waste stone. If the frost failed then the industry 
was at a standstill and the pendle had to be buried deeply in 
cool soil, for if once the ‘quarry water’ was allowed to escape 
the slabs became ‘bound’ and could never be split. 

The Stoncsficld beds are full of fossils from a warm shal- 
low Jurassic sea: corals mingled with the spines and shells of 
sea urchins, molluscs, sea reptiles and turtles. They also yield 
a few land creatures — even, though very rarely, the teeth 
and jaws of early mammals. Like Mr. Aiming of Lyme, the 
Stonesfield workers knew the value of these fossils and dis- 
played them for sale in their cottage windows where they 
might be seen by learned men from Oxford. 

The demand for Stonesfield tiles is still so great that the 
roofs of cottages and bams have been stripped to sell them 
for cash ; the present villagers, too, recall how much the old 
men loved their work, knowing the characters of their pits 
as intimately as those of their wives. Yet now the pits and 



spoil heaps arc overgrown and it is many years since the 
tapping of pick and hammer was heard during the summer, 
or the village was roused on a frosty night by the sound of 
bells. The industry has died partly because the money was 
bad, and partly, so it is said, because in tliis century the 
winters have too often been mild. The last tile worker, 
Thomas Griffin, died recently as a very old man. 

I have given the history of Stonesfield in some detail 
because it shows so well an intimate relationship between 
men and stone. By contrast the history of Oxford stone 
is an unhappy one. Oxford would seem to be far more 
foitunate than Cambridge in being situated on the Jurassic 
belt where learning and piety could be worthily housed 
without sending bullock wagon or horse and cart over 
fifty miles to fetch the necessary material. Good oolitic lime- 
stone could be quarried close at hand. But so also could bad; 
the facility was too great. 

Unlike the Cotswold villages that were built in ashlar, the 
old villages in the neighbourhood of Oxford were in rough 
rubble masonry, often of a ragstone yielded by coral reefs. 
Lumpy and difficult to shape, it was immensely durable. The 
builders of early medieval Oxford used tliis same method 
and the same Coral Rag and in many of the oldest buildings 
— St. Michael’s tower and the tower of the Castle, in the 
City Wall — their rubble jnasonry survives almost un- 
weathered. Even when in the later Middle Ages squared 
stone masonry was wanted for more ambitious building, the 
material was supplied by men who knew^ their local quarries 
as well as the villagers of Stonesfield knew theirs. Much of the 
best came from Taynton, near Burford, where ‘for a 
thousand years the quarrymen came each morning up the 
white road from die village and made the valley ring with 



their hammers and axes*. But large quantities were also 
brought from close at hand, from Headington Hill where 
to-day the cottages appear to be tossed about on a rough sea 
as they cling to the irregular humps and hollows of the old 
quarries. There were two kinds of stone at Headington, a 
‘hardstone’ that was a reef formation, and a ‘freestone* that 
had been laid down in the channels running between the 
reefs. In medieval times the hardstonc was used for plintlis 
and walling while the freestone needed for quoins, jambs, 
sills, lintels and the other dressings came from Taynton. 
With the seventeenth century, however, when the imagina- 
tion of architects had been captured by classical ideals, there 
began an insatiable demand for freestone to build facades 
which were largely dependent on the clean surface texture of 
good ashlar masonry. It was now that the intimacy between 
builders, quarrymen and stone broke down. Freestone began 
to be taken from Headington in great bulk and without the 
loving selection that went with the old understanding of the 
vices and virtues of every pit. Tlic haste with which college 
buildings were going up during the seventeenth and early 
eighteenth centuries, and perhaps a growing estrangement 
between the providers and the users of the stone, meant that 
it was often used unseasoned and wrongly bedded. One can 
perhaps see in it all a symptom of the intellectual arrogance 
of the Renaissance, of its proud isolation of the hiunan 
intellect both from its own imconscious roots and from its 
natural surroundings. Certainly such arrogance has not often 
been more quickly exposed. Within a few decades the poor 
quality freestones began to blister, flake and fall away. The 
smooth ashlar of the classical facades seemed to be trying to 
assume a romantic lack of definition; the lines of pediments 
and architraves were blurred, the detail of acantlius and 



volute rotted; whole buildings fell into a premature and 
degraded old age. Although by the end of the eighteenth 
century the fiilurc was understood and the use of Heading- 
ton freestone abandoned, college chests arc still being drained 
to pay foi restorations. At their best these have a too mech- 
anical perfection, at their worst they show a wretched patch- 
work of colours and textures which can never regain the 
even shading, the bloom, of stones coming from one source 
and growing old together. In writing in this way I reveal no 
more than the feeling of this twentieth-century moment. A 
hundred years ago late followers of romantic taste felt quite 
otherwise. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote: ‘How ancient is 
the aspect of these college quadrangles ! so gnawed by time 
as they arc, so crumbly, so blackened, and so grey where 
they are not black . . . The effect of this decay is very pic- 
turesque, and is especially striking, I think, on edifices of 
classical architecture, such as some of the colleges are, greatly 
enriching the Grecian columns, which look so cold when the 
outlines arc hard and distinct.’ 

Cambridge was without the temptation of cheap stone 
quarries dose at hand, and without temptation it was easy to 
be discreet. The medieval builders turned to the Jurassic belt 
and particularly to Bamack in Nortliamptonshirc, famous 
for its stone at least since the seventh century when it was 
used by King Wulfere for Peterborough Cathedral. Bar- 
nack church itself is Saxon and after a thousand years its 
balusters and long and short work are still fresh. Many 
medieval college buildings were of this Barnack freestone, 
and even after the fifteenth century, when the quarries were 
at last exhausted, more of die stone reached Cambridge 
indirectly when the fcnland abbeys of Romsey and Thomey, 
as well as Barnwell, were pillaged to build Corpus Christi 



and King’s. Noble ruins are allowed to stand only where 
virgin stone is plentiful; in the south-eastern counties men 
swarmed round them like ants carrying away the stone to 
express their own ideals. Blocks shaped to express Gothic fan- 
tasy must often have been made to serve classical restraint. 

When the Barnack pits had been worked out, nearly 
related limestones were brought from Rutland and Lin- 
colnshire, all equally well chosen. Among them Ketton 
stone is perhaps the loveliest — die creamy stone clouded with 
pink that contributes to the grace of Trinity College 
library and adjacent Neville’s Court. All these stones coming 
from the northern extension of the Jurassic belt between 
Northamptonshire and Lincoln arc of fine quality when 
compared with the treacherous Oxford oolites, and so it is 
that Cambridge has never experienced the picturesque 
dilapidation of nineteenth-century Oxford. 

Both universities and all lowland England are brought 
together in the pride of the Bath and Portland stones. It is 
these that may be allowed to make a link between the 
Jurassic Age and the eighteenth century comparable to that 
which relates the nineteenth with Carboniferous times. The 
simplicity characteristic of our native architects could hardly 
have achieved its occasional nobility, its ahnost invariable 
distinction widiout the Badi and Portland quarries. These 
stones, with the slight bloom given by their oolitic struc- 
tures and with their soft white or faintly buff colouring 
shading so subtly on exposure, even to grimy atmospheres, 
have added greatly to the quality of our finest buildings. 

Bath stone has a cream colouring when first brought up 
from die deep pits in which it is mined, but whitens on 
exposure. Already it was being used by the Roman archi- 
tects of Bath and for many Saxon buildings, including 



the church raised by St. Aldlielni of Malmesbury still 
standing at Bradford-on-Avon. It is told of this saint how 
when one day he was riding near Box he ‘ threwe downe his 
glove and bade them dig, and they should find great 
treasure, meaning die quarry*. To-day this story has been so 
far accepted by die trade that stone coming from diat site 
is listed as St. Adliclm Box. The discovery has indeed proved 
to be a great treasure to the nation. 

Portland alone surpasses Badi stone as a medium in which 
Renaissance architecture could achieve perfection. It is the 
paler of the two with more grey and less yellow in its tone. 
The Isle of Portland is ancient Crown property and when 
Inigo Jones was chief architect and Surveyor-General to 
James I he was charged as a part of his routine duties to make 
a survey of the island. So he was led to an intimate know- 
ledge of the oolite of Portland, and intimacy resulted (as it 
occasionally does) in deep admiration. He himself used it for 
the Great Banqueting Hall in Whitehall and its reputation 
was established. Some doggerel verses were composed at the 
time by one Farley who claimed a great famiharity widi 
Portland stones and to know ‘as much of their mindes as any 

Ere since the Architect of Heaven s fair frame 
Did make the World and man to use the same; 
In Eartlis wide womb as in our natural bed. 
We have been hid, conceard and covered . . . 
We were discovered and to London sent 
And by good Artistes tried incontinent; 

Who {finding us in all things firm and sound 
Fairer and greater than elsewhere are found; 
Fitter for carriage and more sure for weather 
Than Oxford, Ancaster or Becr-^stonc eyther) 
Did well approve our worth above them all 
Unto the King for service at WhitehalL 




The h.lir-likc himrs of the iretaieoiis herriir^ provoke aesthetic pleasure . . (see p. Si) 


It was inevitable for Jones's successor in office. Sir Christo- 
pher Wren, to succeed him also as patron of the Portland 

The Fire of London opened the way for Portland stone 
and transformed the Isle into a vast stone-mason’s yard, with 
its own cottages and wharves. Boatload after boatload of 
huge blocks were brought along the south coast and up 
the Thames to rebuild the gutted capital. After its long 
passivity, after one hiuidred and fifty million years un- 
touched by consciousness, this stone was now to spring up 
in the rich variety of Wren’s towers and steeples, so urbane 
and yet so fired with the idiosyncrasy of his genius, gleaming 
like lilies among the rose-red brick of Caneletto’s paintings, 
and now^ tottering but still gracious in our pliilistine and 
ruined city. As its greatest glory, the stone was to grow, to 
blossom, into St. Paufs, that incomparable building which 
has endured all our latter-day barbarities. 

As fortune in all things favours a woman in love until it 
seems that she can do nothing wrong, a nation and country 
in a certain state of vitality and entliusiasm will be con- 
sistently fortunate. Seventeenth-century England still held 
some of this vitality. Although Puritanism had already sown 
its seeds of materialism andjoylcssness, the plants had not yet 
grown large. The intellectual fire and clc'u light of the 
Renaissance was burning among a people who still had some 
of the poetic insights of the Middle Ages, and some of their 
earthincss. It was one of the happy chances of a fortunate age 
that the nation, as personified in its king, should have at its 
command both an architect of genius and a material fitted 
to give that genius its finest expression. As a final stroke of 
good fortune die Great Fire came to give it room. 

There is of course the cruel reverse of this state. Again like 
1 129 


a woman, when a country is out of love with itself the whole 
of life conspires against it. So at the present time if we have 
architects of genius we also have means for preventing them 
from being used; we are addicted to concrete and artificial 
stone, and in the office of the Minister of Works, instead of a 
Wren succeeding an Inigo Jones, an individual who can 
build only mud pies is likely to be succeeded by one who has 
no accomplishments. 

The seventeenth century did not waste tlic chances 
offered to it. At the king’s command the quarries in the Isle 
of Portland were put under Wren’s control to be exclusively 
used for the rebuilding of St. Paul’s. With an artist’s under- 
standing of his material. Wren scrupulously supervised tlie 
selection, cutting and seasoning of the stone. All went well: 
the quarries wau'c not exhausted. Wren did not die and 
money was not withheld. A considerable part of the Isle of 
Portland, milliards of oolites which had once rolled softly on 
the sea floor, were raised by king, people and architect into 
our one great Renaissance cathedral. Tliat building ow’-cs 
much of its quality to the subtle shading of the Portland 
stone as it passes from the rain and wind-bleached points of 
exposure to the sooty darkness of its most sheltered coigns 
and hollows. 

From the British Museum to the Cambridge Senate 
House, the substance of many of our best known or finest 
classical buildings has come from the distant Dorset quarries 
that have contributed more than any others to the person- 
ality of our architecture. 

After this climax in the latest formations of the Jurassic 
Age, the decline in good building stone is rapid. In the whole 
of lowland England south and cast of the limestone belt, 
that region which was formed from Cretaceous times on- 



wards, there is very little with the necessary liardncss. Some 
of the older Cretaceous formations, however, and especially 
those exposed in the Weald, arc of some merit. I sliall single 
out Kentish Rag, for this stone, though it is too intractable 
to be good f<'>r anything but rubble masonry, is immensely 
tough and lias been used in the south-east and in London at 
least since Roman times. An original foundation of this Rag 
supported the four Gotlhc catlicdrals tliat succeeded one 
another on the site of St. Paul’s before the Great Fire. 

Carstone I will mention in order to abuse it. This harsh, 
ginger-coloured stone is quarried in Norfolk, especially near 
the Royal Estates ot Sandringham and ‘ can be seen in many 
of the picturesque buildings erected there’. Cut into tiny 
bricks, it is used for the royal station of Wolferton, and as a 
child on my way to Hunstanton, I used always to run to the 
window of the carriage to see this model building, so like a 
German toy, that seemed to go well with the bearing of 
crowns and sceptres. So it did, but Carstone, wEcn, not only 
at Sandringliam, but in many simple Norfolk cottages, it is 
combined with bright red brick, provides the only example 
known to me of a natural association, a vernacular style, that 
is strident and unpleasing. Doubtless Mr. Kenneth Rowntree 
could make one of his charming neat pictures of it, but I, 
who love Norfolk as much as any county, hate this ginger 
and red whether it appears in a seaside boarding-house or in 
what would otherwise be a pleasant cottage. 

The prime creation of later Cretaceous times, the chalk 
that has so dominant a place in the natural architecture of 
England, is among the humblest of building materials — 
indeed men no longer trouble to use it. But while it remained 
inevitable to build from the materials close at hand, the 
people who lived on the chalk had an understanding of it 



which enabled them to use it efFectivcly for farms and bams 
and even for their parish cliurches. Fortunately in some 
regions, and particularly on Salisbur)^ Plain and the Wes- 
sex downlands in the heart of the chalk country, a stone 
occurs in natural association with the chalk that also com- 
bines admirably with it in building. These are the sarsens 
which now lie on the surface of the downs, the hardest frag- 
ments surviving from a layer which once covered die chalk 
but which has been worn away. These sarsen stones owe their 
name to something strange in their appearance; the country 
people called them Saracens because they felt that these 
harsh, angidar blocks were alien to the yielding curves of the 
chalk on which they lay. A seven teen di-century soldier 
antiquary wrote of one Wessex village that it was ‘a place 
so full of grey pibble stones of great bignes as is not usually 
secne; they break them and build their houses of diem and 
walls, laying mosse betux'cne, the inhabitants call them 
Saracens stones, and in this parish, a mile and a halfe in 
length, they lie so thick as you may go upon them all the 
way. They call that place the Grey-weathers, because afar off' 
they looke like a flock of sheepe.’ 

In their own right the sarsens have a most honourable 
place in these memoirs. Because dicy liad already been 
quarried by water, frost and wind they provided the best 
possible material for masons with a rough equipment of 
stone mauls and antler wedges. It was only because the blocks 
were there that the religious architects of the Bronze Age 
were able to build Avebury and Stonehenge on such a mag- 
nificent scale. With their rough tools and tackle they were 
capable of shaping the blocks, of moving and raising them, 
in itself an astonishing feat, but they could hardly have 
detached them from s(.»lid rock. If it was true to say that the 



Victorian Age would not have been the same without the 
Carboniferous rocks, it is a much simpler and more obvious 
truth that without our sarsens wc should be deprived of our 
two most heroic memories of the Bronze Age. Stonehenge 
is a fascinating example of the effects, for good or ill, wliich 
the mental influence of a people can have on the physical 
inheritance of their land. If its incorporation in a great 
work of art — book, poem or painting— can immensely 
heigliten the quality and significance of some natural or 
artificial feature so also it can be debased by man. Cafes 
and chewing gum, car parks and conducted excursions, a 
sense of the hackneyed induced by post cards, calendars and 
cheap guide books has done more to damage Stonehenge 
than the plundering of some of its stones. It will never again 
be possible to sec it as Constable did when he made his 
studies, a place of mystery against a background of storms 
and flying showers; it is doubtful if it could ever again 
have the deep impact on any man that it once liad on 
Wordsworth; it seems no longer a setting fit for one of 
Hardy’s gigantic, stereoscopic scenes. Men made it and men 
have destroyed it, tlie whole action taking place in the 
realm of die imagination. 

Tlie grey wethers have led me away from the Ciialk. If 
sarsen had it' spectacular triiuiiphs in megalitliic architecture, 
it has far more commonly served humbler purposes. Chalk 
(except for a few special varieties) cannot be successfully 
used in building unless it is stuciicd and coddled, its weak- 
nesses understood and guarded against. The greatest of these 
weaknesses is an inability to resist water, and for this reason 
it must be protected by wide eaves, by careful siting against 
prevailing damp-laden winds, and by foundation courses to 
keep it clear of the ground. In many Wessex farms the walls 



of chalk rubble or of squared chalk blocks rest on a footing 
of sarsen stone which serves as an effective damp course. 
Now, however, the local builders have forgotten how to 
select or handle chalk or Ixnv to work sarsen. That ver- 
nacular is dead and cannot be revived. 

Among the varieties of chalk whose special qualities have 
fwoured their use outside their own localities, one is the 
Devonshire Beer Stone of Farley’s rhyme. But it is for me to 
celebrate Cambridgeshire chinch, for it was in bicycling that 
countryside to visit its parish churches that my earliest ideas 
of architectural style and surfice texture were formed. In 
itself the \\X)rd cluncli seems to me to slunv genius; could any 
other better convey die soft yet dense and resistant quality of 
chalk.^ Chinch, usually quarried either at Haslingfield or in 
the Gogmagog Hills near Cherryhinton, was employed in 
several of the oldest university buildings at Cambridge, but 
almost all of it has now disappeared, having been cither 
replaced or completely clcxikcd by brick or other more 
durable coverings. Its pale, gently mouldering texture can, 
however, still be seen in a wall of Pcterhouse Old Court 
where it adjoins Little St. Mary’s churchyard. At Christ’s an 
unsuccessful experiment was made to band it in alternate 
courses with red brick. Within nvo hundred years it ‘pre- 
sented so ruinous an appearance that persons were deterred 
from entering students therein’. Perhaps Nathaniel Haw- 
thorne would have proved an exception, but it had been 
replaced with a freestone a ccntui'y before his day. 

Chinch, hardly fit for permanent ashlar building, is a good 
ingredient for liomcly country churches. With my inward 
eye 1 can see those Cambridgeshire churches visited so 
laboriously and with such intense enjoyment in my child- 
hood, churches whose clunch rubble walls were patched 



with brick, with harder stones, with inky flints. They were 
walls which though they could never possess formal grace, 
were part of a Gothic which had relapsed from poetry to a 
pleasant domesticity, owing less to architectuic than to the 
passage of time. Such obscure churches, their chancel walls 
bulging, their porches leaning and towers sunken, the 
creation of decay and repair rather than of deliberate inten- 
tion, perfectly represent the slow persistence of village life. 

If chalk is too soft and porous for good building, it carries 
in it one of the hardest and least permeable materials in the 
world — the flints compacted of sponges that once stood 
delicate but rigid in the brilliant underwater world of 
Cretaceous times. They have been used, worked and un- 
worked, in every kind of building from pigsties to cathedrals. 

Near the East Anglian coast rounded beach pebbles of 
flint are set in mortar to produce a curiously stippled texture 
unique in building. It is at its most distinctive in the round 
church towers of Norfolk, plain almost featureless cvlinders, 
massive and indeed Jiiilitary in purpose, yet given a sugary 
appearance by this pale stipjding. In houses the cobbled 
walls often have quoins and door and wnndow frames of 
red brick, the combination producing a stiff and toy-like 
air whicli, however, has none ot the ugliness ot brick 
wnth Carstone. Sometimes more elaborate patterns are 
drawai in brick on the cobble. The end of a barn at Huns- 
w^orth in Norfolk carries a brick design, boldly executed and 
w^cll spaced to repeat the outline of the gable, and composed 
of eleven hearts, the initials E, R and B, and the date 1700. 
The initials arc those of Edmund and Rebecca BridflTe, a 
couple who had been married for many years when they 
built the barn, Rebecca having already borne three daughters 
and buried two of them. The work of those who build for 



their own use must always involve a land of love, but 1 like 
to think that Edmund and Rebecca had more love than is 
usual and that it was this which enabled them to leave a 
stronger, more personal mark on their countryside than all 
the otlicr generations of forgotten Britiffes wlio lived at 
Hunswortli before and after tliem. I ha ve written of cobbles 
in walls, when it is, of course, better known as a surface 
covering for roads, pavements and yards. Often the finest 
WT)rk ot this kind is associated witli a legend that every stcnie 
had to be small enough to go into the workman’s mouth. I 
was first told this story in connection with the famous cobbles 
of Trinity Great Court and I can still faintly rc-cxpcriencc 
the disagreeable sensation of choking and heaving that I 
sufTered as I formed an imaginary picture of men forced to 
carrv out this test on cverv one of the stones that WTre so 
uncomfortable to mv small feet. 

This is an art which is not yet dead and which may be 
exercised in unexpected places. When I last crossed to the 
island bird sanctuary ot Scolt I lead, I found that the guard- 
ian, Chesney, had recently laid a cobble platform in front ot 
the w^atchcr’s hut. He had made a concrete raft in the shifting 
sand of the dunes, then, using cobbles of diHerent colours, 
had made a bold design to frame the star, marked with the 
points of the compass, that formed his centre-piece. Ches- 
ney, a Brancastcr man, has a large quiet body and a mag- 
nificent head set with a foimal pattern of curls, now^ white. 
He, more than any man I have knowm, seems to draw 
strength and repose from his countryside, that coast of tidal 
creeks, wide salt marshes and dunes. His life is adapted to the 
rhythm of the birds, their coming, mating, nesting and 
departure. When he dies, I should like to sec a miracle. An 
artist, a true primitive, should paint a picture showing his 



body turned to a monolith and set up for ever on the 
marshes, while his soul, a structure fine and clear as glass, is 
earned up to the blue Norfolk heavens by a flock of his 
tenis, their exquisite wdiitc, angled wings playing like light- 
ning about it. 

In formal buildings flint must be squared, or even skil- 
fully knapped to fit into stone tracery as a kind of architec- 
tural cloisonne. Some of the finest of tliis work is found in 
Norwich and in the old Suffolk wool towns of Lavenham 
and Long Mclfcu’d which, like their counterparts in tlie 
Cotswolds, seem to stand as a petrified landscape surviving 
from the later Middle Age. In those ornate Perpendicular 
porches, encrusted with canopied niches, arcaded, crested 
with scores of crockctcd finials the flint lias returned to a 
state reminiscent of the life which it once knew when it grew 
in brittle elegance on the sea bed. 

The clays, sands and gravels deposited since the Chalk arc 
generally useless for building unless worked upon by man. 
But of course they always have been worked upon, for 
nothing is simpler to handle or more tractable. In the days 
when human dwellings were hardly to be distinguished from 
the shelters of birds and animals, mud was daubed on to a 
framework of brandies or wickcrwairk. Then it began to be 
beaten into substantial walls of cob, or, supported on a kind 
of hurdling, between the beams iTa timber frame. If the 
thatch is well tended and the walls white or colour-washed, 
there is no reason why these cob cottages should fall down — 
and they do not, but have survived for centuries in all those 
drow'sy villages throughout lowland England where native 
mud is the accepted stuff for building. They have been 
almost destroyed by chocolate boxes, birthday cards and 
calendars, yet, perhaps because they are common enough to 



remain ordinary, they have survived the attack more suc- 
cessfully than Stonehenge and other show places have done. 
Certainly it is still possible to experience a fresh, unsenti- 
mental cnjoyinent of these deep-thatched cottages that look 
so secure and so utterly native — as though they were mush- 
rooms thrusting tlirough the soil. Once, I remember, I 
wxnt with my parents to the village of Abington outside 
Cambridge; I believe I must have ridden pillion on my 
mother’s bicycle, for I know^ that w^ien this incident hap- 
pened I was running beside the bicycles up the village street. 
We w ere a family extraordinarily reserved among ourselves, 
as silent as trees in our emotional lives, and that may 
be the reason w'liy I remember the occasion so very 
clearly. I W'as greatly delighted by Abington, a typical 
Cambridgeshire village of wliitewashed cob and thatch, the 
cottages leaning comfortably against one anotlier, or stand- 
ing apart in small gardens, and I was rinuiing along in a 
kind of cnchantJiient. My father, who hated bicycling, and 
always rode, it he could be induced t(^ mount at all, in a 
painfully stiff and angular manner, suddenly looked dow n at 
me and said, ‘My dear, Innv brigJit your eyes arc. They 
really arc dancing.’ The words struck like an arrow and 
suddenly I was tremendously conscious of myself, a small 
bright-eyed girl enjoying the sight of cottages. I sincerely 
believe this to have been my first moment of self-con- 

The Romans made brick and tile in Britain but it is sur- 
prising how^ long it was before men again began to fire our 
native clays. When flint and the various forms of rammed 
mud were so effective, there seemed no need for anything 
better. Bricks wxre first established in eastern England where 
they began to be manufactured in the thirteenth century 



and were fairly plentiful by the fourteenth. In most of 
Britain they were not commonly used until Tudor times, 
but, once adopted, they were soon being piled into huge and 
extravagant forms in the expanding towns and the sprawl- 
ing iiiansions of tlie merchants and new nobility. Indeed, 
they were liardly again to have so riotous a growth as tliat 
of the carved and writhen Tudor chimney stacks. At first, as 
everyone knows, English bricks were small, with the slight 
inimitable irregularities of things made by hand, and usually 
so much oxidized in firing as to be cither a dccji red or a 
softer r('>sc colour. They were made locally, small pits being 
worked wherever there was a suitable clay, even if it were 
no more than a small pocket left in a hollow of the chalk 

When tlie mass production of bricks began they became 
lifelessly stereotyped, and were fired in kilns which often 
left them pale, sometimes a horrible putty yellow. Now their 
manufacture is largely concentrated in the castem Midlands, 
most strongly in the Peterborough and Bedford regions 
where the chiinne)^s make a naked forest and the air is 
always unpleasant with the smell that rises from innumerable 

If bricks were the first building material used by man that 
he himself liad made and not merely cut or dug from the 
surface of the land, so long as they were hand-made they 
retained a local quality, were influenced in colour and tex- 
ture by the clays from which they were shaped. I remember 
once when driving between the Hamblcdon Mills and York 
being disturbed by some unusual quality in the villages and 
small towns through which we passed, something I can only 
describe as ominous. On making myself look for the cause, I 
realized that the atmosphere was caused by nothing more 



than the prevailing colour, and that the colouring was made 
by bricks exceptionally brown in shade and dark in tone 
— due, no doubt, to some peculiarity of the glacial clays 
in the Vale of York. For this reason I have allowed bricks 
a small place in my narrative, but cement has none. After 
many centuries of lime mortar, now remembered by 
the picturesque ruins of lime kilns scattered tlnough the 
countryside, die fatal discovery of Portland cement was 
made about a century ago. I am aware diat steel and con- 
crete building can be good, that it puts all kinds of possi- 
bilities before us — such as houses wider at the top than at the 
bottom or growing on a single stalk. But it is an architecture 
alien to my dienie, for it represents tliat terrifying new 
plienonienon, man mecliaiiizcd and living cut oft from liis 
land, from the rock out of which lie lias come. 

It is ijnpossiblc altogether to separate an account of our 
rocks from the soils that overlie them. Sometimes soils are 
formed directly from disintegrated stone, as in the ruddy 
ploughland in the Red Sandstone territory of the west Mid- 
lands, and more vividly still in the brilliant soils of Devon. 
It shows again in the contrasting pallor of fields which rest 
on chalk. But in most parts of Britain the soils, and there- 
fore the husbandly that goes with them, owe most to the 
work of the iccshccts and glaciers. In die Midlands, in East 
Anglia, all diosc boulder clays, tills, drifts, crags and brick- 
earths, all those more parciciiJar ft'aturcs such as end moraines 
and eskers, though of course they derive ultimately from 
rocks, owe their present nature and disposition to die Ice 

Finally, all soils owe something of their quality to the life 
they have suppoitcd, to the vegetable and animal matter diat 
falls back into them, builds up the humus, giving them what 



Englishmen have called their ‘good heart’. It is no empty, 
sentimental term, for the structure of the soil depends on 
tliis organic contribution, and it is a quality which cannot be 
given by artificial fertilizers. 

The organic clement is most dominant in the Fcnlands 
whose pitch-black soils have been built up since tlic Ice Age 
by the steady accumulation of bogs and sw^amps. Now, 
reclaimed, walled against the sea, drained, the peat wastes 
foot by foot, but still the fcnlandcrs can bring more wheat 
out of their flat, dark fields than any other cultivators in tlie 

There arc all those special substances whicli natural history 
has buried, folded or otherwise hidden in our fragment of 
the earth’s crust; the metal ores — iron, lead, tin and even 
briglit streaks of gold — the coal, china-clay and salt. All liavc 
appealed to men at certain times or continuously, and have 
lured them to move about the face of the land, to congregate 
now in one region, now in another, to alter the character of 
the land. These things have some place in the next chapter. 
They have not the same intimacy for man, the same massive 
significance, as the rock at his back or the soil from which, 
though he likes to forget it, he must aWays nourish himself. 

Even when already isolated by a developed consciousness, 
men lived in clefts in the stone, or raised great blocks of it to 
greet gods created to express human unity with the rest of 
creation. With sharpening consciousness they began to 
quarry it, to cut and shape it to express their various ideals. 
Anvone who enters a Gothic cathedral must be aware that 
he is walking back into the primeval forest of existence, with 
birds, beasts, ntonsters and angels looking through the 
foliage. But with classical building man was giving expres- 
sion to that upper part of his consciousness which would cut 



itself more and more from its background to live in the 
Ionic temple of the intellect. Yet in spite of the Ionic 
temple, in spite even of the greater perils of the concrete 
office block, the most sensitive and the simplest men have 
never forgotten their origins, their relationship with the land. 
Now Henry McM:)re can be used to symbolize a reaction 
towards it. His curves follow life back into the stone, grope 
round the contours of the woman he feels there, pull her 
out witli the accumulating layers of time, the impressions of 
detailed life, marking the flesh of her universal existence. 


Land and People 

R ecalling in tranquillity the slow posses- 
sion of Britain by its people, I cannot resist the 
conclusion that the relationship reached its great- 
^est indinacy, its most sensitive pitcli, about two 
hundred years ago. By tlic middle of the eiglitecnth century 
men had triumphed, the land was theirs, but bad not yet 
been subjected and outraged. Wildness had been puslied 
back to the mountains, where now for the first rime it could 
safely be admired. Communications were good enough to 
bind the country in a unity lacking since it was a Roman 
province, but were not yet so easy as to have destroyed 
locality and the natural freedom of the individual that 
remoteness freely gives. Rich men and poor men knew how 
to use the stufi of their countryside to raise comely buildings 
and to group tlicm with instinctive grace. Town and 
country" having grown up together to serve one another’s 
needs now enjoyed a moment of balance. 

Every town, every rural locality, had its special products 
and skills, its peculiarities of cultivation, its delicacies and 
local dishes. Round the coasts, too, whether their villages 
climbed steeply above rocky bays or straggled along low 
shores of sand and pebble, the fisherfolk were adapted to 
our island outline, each region with traditional gear and 
boats shaped partly by history and partly by use to take the 
particular sea creatures that time had left in its waters. 
Devonshire crabs and lobsters, Dover soles, Yarmouth 
herring. In every part of die country generations of hands 



had shaped the tools necessary for its way of life, while 
generations of tongues had shaped dialects apt for its 

Glory he to God for dappled thini^s — 

For shies of couple-colour as a brinded coio; 

For rose-tnoles all in stipple upon trout that swim; 

Fresh fire-coal chestnut Jails; fnches win^s; 

Landscape plotted and pieced— Jold fallow and plough; 

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim. 

This is no sentimental blindness to tlic liarshncss of the 
eighteenth century, to the vision of Crabbe or Ilogartli, but 
from tlie point of view of these memoirs it would be sen- 
timental blindness of another kind to ignore the significance 
of its achievement — the unfdrcring fitness and beauty of 
everything men made from the land they had inherited. 

It had taken nearly a million years to reach this delicate 
adjustment, this moment of ripeness; a million years, that is 
to say, from the time when consciousness was sufikicntly 
concentrated in man-like creatures to separate them by a 
hairbreadth from their background. 

It is not my purpose to try to recall much of that immense 
span of the Icc Age when shadowy luunan beings liad hardly 
emerged from among their fellow creatures. They, like the 
plant and animal population, ranged to and fro with the 
shifting of the icc — advancing northward across Europe 
when the icesheets and glaciers retreated, withdrawing 
towards Africa when the arctic cold returned. These fluc- 
tuations stimulated change and the forms of life that returned 
were never identical with those that had withdrawn; new 
species arrived, old ones were modified or disappeared. As 
for men, not only did they vaiy^ physically, but tliose 
images which they alone carried within them changed also, 



tlic images enabling them to shape tools in traditional but 
evolving forms. Contemporary materialism and pre- 
occupation with technology has led to an exaggeration of 
the importance of tool-juaking as such — it may be far more 
significant that primitive man stuck feathers in his hair — but 
certainly as a beginning of the imposition of conscious mind 
upon unconscious matter it has great significance. The 
evolution of tools, slow and empirical though it was, seems 
even for tliat remote time to be distinguished from the 
evolution of physical forms by its deliberate purpose, its 
direction towards a greater efficiency. That both the evolu- 
tion of die ammonite and of human culture may be shadows 
of larger events, perhaps even of larger purposes, is the hope 
of us all and the faidi of many. We are, however, poorly 
equipped as yet, and it is inevitable that men should be able 
to sec the purpose in their own earlier activities but not in 
the convolutions of the ammonites. 

During all the warm interludes in the lee Age, men differ- 
ing in appearance and with different traditions of tool- 
making were at home in the British region. Yet even during 
the longest of these intervals, between the second and the 
third glaciation, when Britain enjoyed an almost tropical 
cUmatc, there is no sign that any of diem extended dicir 
range into northern England or Scotland. 

It is symbolic of man’s creativeness that from the begin- 
ning we know him from the things he made rather than 
from liis bodily remains. The existence of a dinosaur can be 
recalled only from the existence of its fossil; the presence of 
man in Britain can be proved for a time long before his 
earliest surviving bones. Nevertheless it would be ridicuLius 
if in these memoirs I fulcJ to say something ot die oldest 
human fragments found in our soil. Of the two most 

K 145 


famous, Swanscombc Man is far more venerable than Pilt- 
down Man. He and his kin were probably hunting in and 
about the Thames valley during this long warm period when 
the game included elephant and hippopotamus. His skull was 
found in one of those huge gravel pits which arc rapidly 
reducing the terraces of the Lower Thames. In brain capa- 
city this savage was already approacliing Homo sapiens, and 
he was an unambiguous member of the ancestral stock of 
our species. There is no doubt, either, that he or his kindred 
made the shapely flint hand axes found in the same gravel 
beds at Swanscombc, It was tools of this kind whose dis- 
covery in the eighteenth century- first stirred our memory of 
these remote ages, set on foot a rumour of the existence of 
antediluvian man. 

Piltdown Man has proved far more elusive. One might 
think he had left some dcvilrv'' in liis partially petrified bones. 
For half a century strenuous efforts at recollection failed to 
prove whether the fragments of human skull were contem- 
porary with the very ancient animal bones or tlic crude flint 
implements which lay with them in the Sussex gravel. 
Moreover there was long, fierce and inconclusive dispute 
as to whether the chinlcss, simian jaw could ever Iiavc been 
attached to the high, well-shaped cranium so full of intel- 
lectual promise as to be recognizably that of an ancestor of 
the learned disputants themselves. I like this Yorrick who 
clowns, makes a mock of us, even with his bones. At last, 
however, he has been laid by the heels. A method for esti- 
mating the antiquity of bone has been discovered — a power- 
ful new aid in the hands of those who arc trying to recollect 
the past. In constant conditions fluorine is absorbed into bone 
at a steady rate and so provides a kind of non-mechanical 
clock w^hich has in fact been keeping the time dirough hun- 



dreds of tliousaiids of years. Reading this clock has shown 
that skull and jaw arc of die same age and both very much 
younger than the long-extinct animals’ remains. It is almost 
certain, in fact, that Piltdown Man did combine a high 
brow with chinlessncss and that he was living in Sussex 
about a Iiimdrcd thousand years ago, in the period between 
the third and the last glaciations. This would make him the 
junior of Swanscombe Man by about a himdred and fifty 
thousand years, and the only known representative of a 
species of liunianity which, like Neanderthal Man, became 
extinct with the final onset of the ice. 

Perhaps because their cultural resources were now so 
much greater, the final advance of the ice did not drive men 
from western Europe, or even from the region of Britain. 
At first, however, the dominant breed was a tough one, 
probably better fitted than Swanscombe or Piltdown Man to 
endure the rigours of the time. On the other hand the mental 
capacity of these Ncandcrdial men was less. Their small 
heads, the muscular drag of their heavy jaws, all those 
elements of brutish strengtli which they shared with the 
apes, prevented the expansion and fine configuration of the 
brain. Yet the Neanderthal breed has an honoured place in 
these memoirs because in so far as the recollection of the 
remote past has spread among the people of Britain (and it is 
already widespread), that past is symbolized for them by 
Neanderthal Man. He is Prehistoric Man, Cave Man par 
excellence. He lias an honourable place, too, because tlic 
climate, the steely winds cutting along the edges of the ice, 
drove him to the shelter of caves. Certainly thousands of the 
tools of earlier Palaeolithic hunters have been taken from our 
soil; here and there a flint working place has been detected, 
while Piltdown and Swanscombe Man have left us their 



Tcry heads, but in these caves parents and children Kved 
folded in the rock, made tools, sat round the fire roasting 
their meat, slept together, were bom and died. These arc 
our first known human dwellings — let me call them that to 
avoid any false use of die heavy" overtones clinging to the 
word ‘homes’ — for tlic first time we can recall a com- 
munity with a precise lodging place in this country, a claim 
on it and a sense of belonging to it. I wish I could recollect 
how far the consciousness housed under the low vaults, 
behind the sloping foreheads and heavy brows, was con- 
centrated, how fir it enabled these men to look out on the 
world with some faint sense of detachment. A degree of 
detachment is reflected in their ability to take flint and flake 
it into a number of fcu*ms- — knives, scra})crs and others — 
arid in their control of fire. Most significant of all, these poor, 
shambling beings v'cre sufficiently aware of death to bury 
their dead with some ceremony, setting wxapons beside 
them and offerings of meat. Here surely we meet our 
brothers, minds already afflicted with dcatli? 

I will leave this as a symbol of dawning coiiscioiisnc.,5. Tlie 
group of ugly creatures housed in the rock from which 
tlicy liad sprung, aware of the cave walls cnclc'ising them in a 
pocket of warmth and light, cutting tliCm off from the frosty 
land outside; faintly aware, too, of one another. The narrow 
opening of the cave was an eye with a vision of the outer 
world, allowing the slow silting down to the depths of 
mind of images of the sun and moon, of light and darkness. 

Before the end of the Icc Age the Neanderthal men had 
not only been dispossessed of their bleak hunting grounds in 
Britain, but of life itself, having been hurried out of the 
world by rivals in whom the qualities of mind had become 
more strongly, more effectively concentrated. Men of our 



own species, coming from Africa and the East, now spread 
over those parts of Europe which were free from ice. They 
wxre men potentially our equals, poorer only in the lack of 
accumulated knowledge, the emotional and intellectual 
experience we have gained with the passage of time. Their 
practical ability was shown in the invention and perfecting 
of stone and bone implements far niorc precisely designed 
than ever before for the execution of particular tasks. In the 
spear-tli rower and bow and arrow, too, they were experi- 
menting however unconsciously with important mechanical 
principles. But their technical achievements were not their 
greatest. It w^as these hunters wfio in France and Spain 
created the paintings and sculpture tliat have been one of the 
most astonishing of all our recollections of the past. Here 
for the first time was consciousness receiving impressions 
from the exterior world and expressing them again through 
the power of the imagination. These projections, every- 
thing from the mammoth and rhinoceros to the delicate 
ibex, painted on cave walls, modelled in clay, carved in 
bone, stone and ivory, have a significance and a reality fir 
greater than any reconstruction of these animals an anatom- 
ist might make from their surviving bones. In them already 
is something of man and his fleeting, tormenting apprehen- 

The British region was only on the fringes of tliis rich 
hunting culture. Then as now the climate was a deterrent, 
and the cave accommodation cannot have been considered 
good when compared with that of the great limestone 
ravines of the Dordogne. Nevertheless, hunting parties did 
come, and as a reminder of their presence have left tools in 
many open-air sites and a few'' caves. Unhappily survivals of 
their art are negligible, and of the few rough engravings 



there arc, one or two have a slight sexual interest, but none 
has any aesthetic merit. 

Among their mortal remains, the hunter who had been 
ceremonially buried in the Paviland cave of the Gower 
peninsula was given a certain notoriety by Dean Buckland 
under the name of the Red Lady, but I prefer to turn rather 
to the skeleton from Gough’s Cave, Cheddar, laid out in its 
glass case like Lenin or a saint. There is no other place in 
Britain where it is easier to imagine the daily life of the 
Palacolitliic hunters tlian in this magnificent Mendip gorge 
— the paths winding up to the cave mouths, women sitting 
in die sun wLile they suckle babies or pluck nits from tJieir 
cliildren’s licads, young boys scrambling on die rocks, while 
a returning hunting party is siUioucttcd against the sky as one 
by one they cross the lip of the gorge. To-day charabancs 
follow the zigzag road cleft for them — bringing crowds to 
stare at dieir ancestral bones. 

The dcvelopincnt of human culture during this last phase 
of die Old Stone Age seems extraordinarily rapid when it is 
compared with the leisurely tens of thousands of )'ears 
preceding it. This acceleration, representing, as it must, a 
sudden sharpening of consciousness, may have been brought 
about by one tremendous event. Men had learnt to speak. 
We all know (or heaven lielp those who do not) that in a 
speaking world speech is not necessary for some of the most 
subtle communications possible to man. Like the highly 
educated who alone arc ready to deride education, we may 
now begin to think that too many words will be our un- 
doing. Speeches may have cured us of any admiration for 
speech. But this was a wmrld in which no one had ever 
spoken. For untold ages men must have had their means of 
expressing the ancient emotions of pain, desire, hate and 



triumph, but reason had no language. Now at last language 
made it possible to describe actions without performing 
them, to report on experience, to weigh and to discuss. 
Through recollection and anticipation speech created past 
and future and made it possible to modify one in order to 
shape the other. Hence the acceleration of change. 

If these consequences of a coherent language tended fur- 
ther to divide man from nature, words must soon have been 
used to serve his contrary desire for reunion with the uncon- 
scious world he had left. In the infmey of culture ritual and 
art were one, and the hunters who drew the animals they 
desired and performed ritual dances in fissures deep in the 
rock must also have had poetry to evoke this physical and 
spiritual sympathy, using the poetic image that is ‘the 
human mind claiming kinship with everything that Hves and 
has lived*. 

There is a sense in which the ordering of speech has a 
direct effect also on die land. Names could be attached to all 
those features of the countryside that attracted men’s 
attention or were of significance in their lives. Mountains, 
rivers, springs, places wlicre reindeer congregated, where a 
giant mammoth had been trapped or a famous hunter killed. 
Above all, places associated with ancestral spirits, gods and 
heroes. Place names are among the things that link men 
most intimately with their territory. As the generations pass 
on these names from one to the other, successive tongues 
wear away die syllables just as water and wind smooth the 
rocks; so they become rounded, slip more easily from tongue 
to tongue, perhaps lose their meaning, yet grow more and 
more closely attached to the land itself So closely, indeed, 
that often place names outlast the language that made them, 
remaining as evidence of the former presence of dispossessed 



or submerged peoples. A geologist finds proof of the exis- 
tence of past life ill fossils, an archaeologist in objects men 
have made; an etymologist looks instead to place names 
which after thousands of years recall the talk of forgotten 

A name can become a part of the cliaracter of a place, and, 
when caught up in the art of its people, can assume a life 
and significance of its own. The Forest of Arden, Benbulbin, 
the River Duddon, Wcnlock Edge or Flatford Mill, tliey 
are all strands w'ovcn into our culture. Count those peoples 
fortunate who, like ourselves, have been able to keep the 
W'arp threads of the fibric long, their histories in one piece. 

We can have inherited no single syllable from the names 
given by Palaeolitiiic hunters, but never since their day have 
our landmarks been without them, without some sound to 
enrich and confinn their per sonality. 

These hunters remained when the final retreat of the ice 
left Britain a dreary landscape of meres, bogs, screes and all 
the litter of glaciation. By about 8000 B.C., ho w' ever, the 
scene w'as changing. Every summer piiic coixs ripened and 
burst and the winged seeds travelled on the wind; everj^ 
year the p)incs encroached further on the open lands of the 
north and west. In time Britain w'as black with them, heavy 
with coniferous darkness. 

The trees drove out the game herds that had grazed the 
open country and so destroyed the livelihood of the hunters 
who preyed up’ion them. The men wiio now came to Britain, 
although they w^crc the descendants of other Palaeolithic 
hunting peoples, had already adapted their habits to the new 
conditions. Instead of ranging freely over wide territories, 
they were confined to the forest edges, wlictlicr it was 
along the sea coast, by inland lakes and rivers, or m areas 

LAND And people 

wlicrc poor soil or exposure discouraged the growth of 

The sunless forests, so like those that still mask much of 
northern Europe, must have seemed imchanging enough to 
the early Mesolithic food gatherers who had to live among 
them, but with the foreshortening of time they can be seen 
as a black wave sweeping in the wake of the retreating 
whiteness of the ice as it ebbed northwards. In their wake 
again followed a greener wave, the deciduous forests of oak 
and elm w hich w’ould still form the natural covering of this 
country had W'C not stripped it off 

This spread of the deciduous trees, as I have already said, 
w^as probably hastened by another event — the junction of 
the North Sea with the Channel and the ensuing isolation of 
Britain. To us now, islanders of such long standing, tliis 
seems a dramatic and significant happening, but for the 
scattered groups of food gatherers it can have meant very 
little. They were fimiliar with stretches of coast, but can 
hardly have comprehended islands and continents, for neither 
interest nor know ledge stretched much beyond their own 
hunting grounds. Even those communities that lived in the 
soutli-cast cannot have been much affected, for the channel 
widcncci only gradually, and boats were now an effective part 
of man’s equipment. The conditions in northcni Britain had 
so far iniprovcd that Mesolithic hunters and fishermen were 
able to push up die wx^st coast of Scotland, wiiilc even the 
exposed Pcnnincs were much visited as summer hunting 
grounds. But the population remained small, and although 
some tribes, particularly those living in south-east and 
eastern England, had heavy flint axes capable of felling and 
shaping timber, the mark dicy could make on the face of 
Britain must have been slight indeed. A few trees cut — 



extending here and there to a small clearing; boats moving 
on the rivers and along the shore; some huddles of low- 
roofed huts, sometimes on platforms raised above the marsh, 
sometimes with floors sunk into the ground for greater 
warmth and shelter. On winter nights their fires might 
throw a ring of light, marking out a diminutive and weakly 
held human world, but a world lit by the sound of voices, 
by the faint flickering of mind. 

Turning away from these islands to see the ancient world 
as a whole, it is plain that these small encampments were 
already backward, their way of life no longer the only way 
knowai to men. In late Palaeolithic times Europe had been 
supreme, the work of her artists the greatest achievement the 
world had known, but now the continent was stagnant, 
choked and deadened by interminable forests. While 
European savages were still using their cunning to live off 
their lands without changing tliem or imposing themselves, 
many Eastern societies had long abandoned this passive 
habit. This is not die place to repeat tl)c familiar, though still 
astonishing, history of the sudden rise of civilization in the 
Middle East, where within a few thousand years city life had 
grown from its roots in primitive agriculture and stock 
raising. Nor is it my purpose to trace in detail the story of the 
slow, indirect and partial impact of tliis revolution on life in 
Britain, of the three tliousand years that it took for the 
elementary ideas of a farming economy to spread so fir 
among the western mists, storms and forests. They did 
come, even wlnlc the yet more difficult idea that in the place 
of his ring of firelight man could create his own w'orld 
within city walls was delayed in the Mediterranean for 
another two thousand years. When about 2500 b.c. Neo- 
lithic peoples began to reach Britain across the still narrow 



sleeve of the Channel, they brought, witli their livestock and 
seed wheat and barley, a promise of deep-seated change. 
Peering through time, it is easy to ignore the solidity of die 
past, to see abstractedly ‘the Introduction of Farming’. I 
want only to remember that tlierc was a day, as real as 
to-day when the hens arc cackling in my neighbours’ back 
garden and Mr. Bevin is flying back from another United 
Nations conference, when the first of tlicse boats groped 
along our coasts looking for a good landing place or a river 
that promised an entry to the interior. That there was a 
moment when the first domestic cattle and sheep, lowing 
and bleating indignantly, were driven ashore and when men 
and women disembarked to choose a camping ground for 
their first night in our island. 

At this period the formations of Jurassic and Cretaceous 
Ages began to exert their strongest influence on human 
affairs. The farming peoples might occasionally occupy 
gravel terraces in rii’cr valleys wlicn these were open and 
well drained, but for the most part they spread over the 
English uplands, the chalk downs of Sussex and Wessex and 
their extensions into Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, 
and on the limestone hills of the Jurassic belt. 

Meanwhile those more ancient parts of Britain, the 
strctclics of mountain and moorland which events of so 
many millions of years ago had raised and which now 
formed our Atlantic coasts, were not left unclaimed. The 
historic role of these antique highlands has been to offer 
resistance to new peoples and new practices when these have 
swept across the narrow seas and lowland England, but to 
allow something of the new clement to penetrate, altered 
and moulded to suit traditional forms. They were usually, in 
fict, the rocky fortresses of conservatism that they still are 



to-day when they hold at bay the main tide of die Industrial 
Revolution. But at diis time a connection with the Mediter- 
ranean thoroughfare of civilization gave them a more 
positive, a more active part. Adventurers sailing from Spain, 
Portugal and Brittany came to our western coast, and from 
Conm^all to die Orkneys fitted themselves into its fretted 
line, setthng on coastal plains, round sea inlets and estuaries, 
rarely penetrating far from the sea. While the peoples living 
on die English uplands must have been accustomed to look 
down from dieir safer eminence into die tangled forests of 
die plains and valleys, these other tribes instead w^ould look 
upwards at the stark and hostile country of the mountain 
crests. Their coming, and the establishment of this Atlantic 
coast route to the Mediterranean, meant that for many cen- 
turies the highlands would have their owai contribution to 
make to the development of human life in this country. 

The occupation of Britain by Neolithic peoples could not 
fail to have a profound effect on die character of die islands. 
The JVlcsolithic hunters had studied die habits of their fellow 
creatures — the routes of the deer, the coming of salmon to 
our rivers, the movements of mackerel and licrring slioals, 
the spring and autumn flights of geese. With simple craft 
dicy devised dieir snares and fish traps, their nets, hooks, 
harpoons, bows and arrows to enable diem to claim their 
tithe of this natural harvest. Tlic Neolithic farmers were 
humble enough, they could not foresee how' their successors 
would destroy die forests and subjugate the wliole land, but 
they came with an additional equipment of conscious pur- 
pose and of will. Working where the conditions were man- 
ageable on the relatively open hills and round the fringes of 
the mountains, they set themselves to begin the domesti- 
cation of die land. They felled trees, and burnt undergrowth 



to improve the pasture for their flocks and herds and fiet 
the soil for the cultivation of their wheat. They embanked 
and fenced hilltops as cattle corrals and built themselves huts 
which were perhaps not very substantial but whose rect- 
angular forms must have been conspicuous in their wild 

This same will, this refusal merely to accept, led the 
Neolithic peoples to success in another niost remarkable 
enterprise. Not content with surface flints, they went in 
pursuit of the larger, more readily worked nodules bedded 
in the chalk. Widi antler picks taken from the foreheads of 
deer, and shovels from tlie shoulders of oxen, they saUik pits 
and followed the scams of flint with a network of galleries. 
They were the first men to cut down through the accumula- 
tions of time to reach hidden resources which would then be 
used to transform the land itself. 

Their mining has left its mark on the countryside in the 
grass-grown pits and spoil heaps that pock the turf in many 
places on the Sussex Downs, in Wiltshire, and most con- 
spicuously of all at Grimes Graves, in Suffolk. Here flint is 
still being woiked to-day. The Snares were for generations 
the leading knappers, and I remember going to see the Snare 
family in their Thetford workshop. The cabin was deep in 
silica dust and flakes, and a neat-wristed man in a leather 
apron sat knacking gun flints and tossing them into a large 
barrel, already half full of the glistening black squares. 
They were to go, I was told, to Africa. Others now bring us 
dollars by their sale to those curiously atavistic organizations, 
the flint-lock gun clubs of the United States. 

The mined flint was used mainly for making heavy axes 
suitable for tree-felling; other axes, equally effective, were 
made from the tough igneous rocks of die highlands and, 



like the flint variety, were widely traded throughout the 
country. The products of sponges and of volcanoes, both 
long extinct, were being turned by hiunan will against the 
domination of the forests. 

The Neolithic peoples showed the new spirit of mastery in 
another small but significant accomplishment; they were the 
first to use our local clays to make pottery. They knew how 
to take and prepare it, and, by firing, deliberately to change 
its chemical nature to produce the jars and pots now needed 
for dairy produce and many other domestic employments 
unknown to the old hunters. Before the introduction of 
metallurgy, this was the only activity by which men took 
hold of the raw material of their land and changed not only 
its form but its substance. 

It was not, however, for directly material ends that these 
firming communities put out their greatest energies or made 
their deepest mark on the countryside. They had brought 
with them from the Mediterranean the worship in some 
form of that variously named divinity tlie Great Goddess or 
Earth Modicr and the attendant male god who is her son or 
lover. It may well be that throughout the ancient world 
there were in fact only two high gods, the Earth Mother 
and that opposite principal represented by Zeus, Jehovah, 
the Sky Father — all lesser divinities representing no more 
than special attributes of these great ones. 

Several rough effigies have been found in Britain, some- 
times caiwed in chalk, a substance which must at all times 
luivc recalled the flesh of the White Goddess. At the bottom 
of one of the mine shafts of Grimes Graves a figure of the 
goddess w’as discovered enthroned above a pile of antlers on 
which rested a chalk-carvcd phallus. This slirinc had been set 
up in one of the few pits that by chance had failed to strike 



the flint bed, and Our Lady of the Fhnt Mines, it seems, was 
being asked to cure sucli sterility. It is worth meditating on 
this story, for it perfectly represents the unity of life tliesc 
people enjoyed. They were confident that by carving the 
symbols of a woman and a phallus and rendering the 
appropriate ritual words, movements, and offerings, they 
could ensure an increase of flint just as readily as their 
fellows could multiply their calves and lambs. 

The spirit of the Great Goddess must also have presided 
over the religious observances centred on die megalitliic 
tombs. These tombs, our earliest stone architecture and an 
extraordinary manifestation of the energy and purpose of 
the Neolithic peoples, still survive in numbers along our 
Atlantic seaboard. There are no images or symbols of the 
goddess in our megaliths comparable to tliose found in 
France; her symbolism, nevertheless, is implicit in the whole 
structure, in the carthfist chamber carefully hidden, made 
cave-like, below a huge mound of earth or stones. These 
massive communal vaults were not intended simply for a 
backward-looking cult of the dead or the appeasement of 
ancestors; they were to suggest a return to the Earth Mother 
for rebirth, the association of death with fecundity which 
inspires all the myths of the goddess and dac dying god. In 
this sense they represented the timeless unity of the tribe, 
of its members, dead, living and unboni all enclosed within 
their common matrix, the rock and the earth. 

The nature of Neolithic society in Britain has been for- 
gotten for all time, but I myself do not doubt that whether 
or no it can properly be called matriarchal, the women were 
its foundation. It rested on their eardiiness, their interest 
in fecundity and physical creation ; they rcjiiained, the sons- 
in-law, the husbands came to them. It may even be that dicir 



influence towards good sense, and their conservative power, 
were enough to keep the men from warfare — for the Neo- 
lithic peoples have left no obviously war-like equipment 
behind them. 

Struggling to recall the activities and habits of diese early 
populations of Britain die imagination seeks to know what 
diey looked like, wishing to give features, form and colour- 
ing to these men and women pulling in their nets, gathering 
fruit and nuts, working in their com plots or lolling in the 
shade near their grazing flocks. It is a curious chance diat 
while we have many jiicmories of the doings of the Meso- 
lithic hunters, we have none of their bodily form ; no single 
relic has survived in Britain. Judging, however, bodi from 
their palaeolithic ancestors and their later descendants it is 
hkely that they were a fairish people, early members of die 
Nordic race. This name has now been given a false and a 
hideous ring by the atrocities associated with it, yet 1 cannot 
sympathize with those people who in the name of enlighten- 
ment seem almost to try to convince us that it is impossible 
to distinguish a Swede from an African. From the time when 
the lands of northern Europe were freed from the ice, 
descendants of the old limiting stocks inhabited them and 
were predominantly fair. That has never been a virtue, 
but is still a fact. 

For die Neolithic peoples, whether those who crossed the 
Channel or those wdio sailed up the Atlantic coast, there is 
plenty of material for memory'; their custom of burying the 
dead in communal tombs has led to die survival of many of 
their skeletons. It is not difficult to recall wliat they were like 
for they are still among us. In many parts of Wales it is 
possible to come upon diem, perhaps a whole fimily liay- 
making on a steep liillside. With their black hair and eyes 



and that rich complexion in wliich a warm colouring glows 
through a bro wn skin they would not look out of place in 
a Sicilian olive grove. Looking at such people it is not 
difficult to accept their Mediterranean ancestry or to believe 
that these ancestors brought with them the Mediterranean 
Mother Goddess, a more primitive and darker Mary. 

Into a land in which the two contrasting stocks were 
mingling, there broke fresh invaders, who differed from 
them both in appearance, and also, as I believe, in liabits of 
life and thought. Tlicse invaders, wlio entered Britain by 
many harbours along the south and east coasts, were strong 
in physique, with a noticeable round-headed Alpine element, 
warriors who fittingly represented the Indo-European 
peoples who did so much to disturb the peace of Europe 
after 2000 b . c . They would be high pastoralists, a restless 
patriarchal society in which the masculine principle had 
raised the Sky God to pre-eminence. Their collision with the 
Neolithic Mediterranean peoples was inevitable and direct. 
As pastoralists, dicy, too, wanted the open pasture of the 
Jurassic and Cretaceous uplands, and with their warlike 
tradition, tlieir stronger bodies and their superior bronze 
weapons they had no difficulty in taking what they wanted. 
The classic scene for the defeat of predominantly mat- 
riarchal societies by Indo-European warriors was in Greece, 
where the overthrow of die goddess and her subjects has 
recently been lamented by Robert Graves. A similar hap- 
pening is commemorated in northern mythology by the 
defeat of the Vanir gods, Nerthus and Frey, by the Anses of 
the family of Odin. Professor Hodgkin has written of tliis* 
Tt was the struggle between the cult of Modier Earth on the 
one hand — bountiful Mother Earth, with her gods who gave 
peace and who blessed agriculture with plentiful increase — 
L 161 


and on the other hand the heroic gods, the gods of war who 
gave victory/ 

This struggle, with its inescapable result, took place in 
Britain at the beginning of the Bronze Age nearly four 
tliousand years ago. Its effects were to be lasting. The Indo- 
European aristocracy, renewed again and again by Celtic, 
Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and Norman conquerors, has 
held its ascendancy until recent times. I sliould say that so far 
as Britain is concerned it made its last stand with the guards 
regiments that were cut to pieces at Calais in 1940. What is 
succeeding it no one can as yet distinguish. 

This Indo-European occupation of Britain profoundly 
altered the relationship between human communities and 
the land on which they lived. This is materially manifest in 
the abandonment of communal burial in earthfist burial 
chambers in favour of the interment of single individuals 
under round barrows, and by the replacement of the com- 
munal tombs as centres of a death and rebirth ritual by the 
open temples of the type of Avebur}^ and Stonehenge. 
Though the fmious owl-faced idols from Folkton may 
represent some survival of the goddess (who, indeed, is 
always bound to reassert herself after defeat, just as the 
women of defeated peoples creep into the beds of the con- 
querors and become the mothers of their sons), all the sur- 
viving female statuettes and all the phalli were carved by the 
Neolithic peoples. The nature of the inward change in the 
relationsliip is a matter for the individual imagination — but 
as a stimulus I will add two of Robert Graves’s verses. 

Swordsman of the narrow Ups, 

Narrow hips and murderous mind 
Fenced with chariots and ships. 

By your joculators hailed 
The mailed wonder of mankind. 

Far to westward you have sailed. 



Yot4 whoy capped with lunar gold 
Like an old and savage dunce ^ 

Let the central hearth go cold^ 

Grinned, and left us here your sword 
Warden of sick fields that once 
Sprouted of their own accord. 

For these memoirs that change was the most momentous 
of the Bronze Age, yet the accompanying change in the 
physical relationship between men and their land was not 
very great. The invaders, too, needed open grazing and 
although they perhaps occupied river valleys and the eastern 
coastal plains in greater force than their predecessors had 
done, it was the chalk uplands that remained the most 
desirable, prosperous and populous territories of Britain. 
They did push slowly westward into the mountains and 
towards the Atlantic coast regions still dominated by the 
megalith builders, but there they came very much under the 
influence of the old population, and the old religion, and 
were even drawn into the mcgalithic cults. Indeed, it may 
have been this survival of the goddess among the mountains 
that much later gave rise to the matriarchal tradition in 
Pictish society, including the inheritance of kingship 
through the mother. Was it her name of Alba tliat was given 
to Scotland, and sometimes, in the form of Albion, to the 
W'hole of Britain ? 

The importance of the uplands and particularly of the 
chalk hills to the Bronze Age pastoral peoples is certain, and 
it is no less sure that many centuries of grazing large herds 
of cattle and sheep must have involved a further clearance of 
trees and bushes. One added purpose for which wood must 
have been taken was for funeral pyres. By the middle of the 
Bronze Age cremation had become almost universal. I 
mention this partly, perhaps, because it calls up a dramatic 
scene — the tribesmen summoned and the pyre built just 



below the summit of the hill not too far above the edge 
of the forest from which the wood had been brought — 
either felled, or, more likely, dead timber dragged from 
the tangled undergrowth. I like to think I can recall that the 
burning took place at night, for we are all attracted by the 
notion of a cave of light in the darkness, of faces illumined 
and gigantic shadows, and of the black waves of the forest 
reaching up, hardly touched by the glare. When the heat 
had died away and no more than a few stumps were still 
glowing beneath the white ash, the burnt bones were col- 
lected and put still hot into the urn and, with what further 
ceremonies I cannot even pretend to know, the urn was 
covered by the burial mound w^hosc perfectly circular out- 
line may have symbolized that of the solar disc. 

The importance of the chalk hills is shown by the choice 
of Salisbury Plain, the centre of the Cretaceous W'Orld, for 
the two greatest sacred enclosures, those of Avebury and 
Stonehenge. Stonehenge is farther removed than any other 
prehistoric monument from what I may call natural archi- 
tecture. Here for the first time in Britain we see men shaping 
stone into rectangular forms, cliopping out tenon and mor- 
tice and designing their massive trilithoiis. But these temples 
have a wider significance. As fiir away as the Orkneys, as 
Derbvshirc, Norfolk and Devonshire, there were others, 
smaller and simpler than Avebury and Stonehenge, but with 
at least as great a similarity of plan as is found among 
Christian churches. Such unifonnity suggests some degree 
of religious colicsion, possibly even a scattered priesthood, 
a primitive foreshadowing of the Druids. I find this sig- 
nificant because a widening of consciousness beyond the 
immediate tribal territories that closed the horizon of most 
men’s lives must have meant that now, and probably for 



the first time, there were individuals who carried in tlieir 
minds some fiiiit image of Britain as a whole, who could 
perhaps have scratched a rough outline of our triangular 

If I have used religious uniform iiy to suggest the develop- 
ment of a consciousness embracing the whole land, I might 
equally well have used trade as evidence of tliis growing 
coherence. There was nothing absolutely new in the bronze 
industry. Mining had already been practised for flint, while 
potting had meant the deliberate subjection of natural 
materials to chemical change; the marketing of dint and 
stone axes had been a trade that broke the complete self- 
sufficiency of each small community. But in the bronze 
industry all these activities became fir more difficult and 
complex. The necessary ores did not occur together; the 
tin loaded into the Cornish rocks by igneous heat had to be 
brought together with copper from Ireland, North Wales 
or Scotland before the smelting and alloying cc^uld begin. 
This work was itself infinitely more expert, further removed 
from common sense, tlnan the homely craft of potting. Out 
of rough dark lumps hammered from the rock, men could 
produce this flashing, dangerous molten substance and cast it 
into forms that were v/holly their own. As an act of ima- 
gination it was considerable, but as an act of will it was an 
immense achievement. 

The trade in ores and the marketing of the finished goods 
throughout Britain and western Europe demanded the 
establishment of commercial routes by land and sea which 
served at once to bind Britain more closely together and 
to open channels of information. Although it is possible to 
travel known routes without any very coherent picture of 
die map, tliis activity of the Bronze Age traders must have 



given them some awareness of the form of these islands and 
of their relation to the Continent. The land was, in short, 
emerging further and furtlier into the clarity of conscious- 

The action of its volcanoes had also endowed western 
Britain with a more precious and peculiar metal. The gold of 
the Wicklow Hills was early found by the prehistoric pros- 
pectors and shaped into necklets, ear-rings, armlets, and 
other oniaments for the human body, which were traded 
as widely as the native bronze. By the end of the Bronze 
Age the ornaments began to turn into pure wealth, into 
ring-money, foreshadowing die gold rings that glitter so 
often in heroic verse, gifts heaped upon one another by 
kings and warriors as proof of their greatness and aristo- 
cratic generosity — ‘The Prince of the Scyldings, Bestower 
of Rings’. 

I am puzzled by this ancient bond bctw^cen men and gold, 
a bond fir more pow-erful and tyramiical now than it was 
four tliousand years ago. It is not that I am incapable of 
understanding the economics of the gold standard — though 
even there the fact that a nation will give vast quantities of 
food and goods for lumps of metal to be at once hidden 
underground wiiuld seem to belong to a fairy-tale world. It 
is one of the extravagant fantasies that are accepted without 
surprise by the most prosaic. The power of this metal can- 
not depend upon its rarity alone. There has always been a 
fascination in this bright stuff that shines like the sun; it is as 
though it came from the ground so laden with symbolism 
that men, always troubled by intiiiiations of mystery, seized 
upon it and exalted it until its name is one of the most 
evocative words in every language. It stands for the pure 
heart and for die root of evil, it veins our life and our 



literature as it veins mountains; a perpetual proof of the 
power inherent in the clifFcrcntiatcd, the fully individual. 

The use of more subtle materials, bronze and gold, made 
possible the refinement of those varieties of culture which are 
among the most significant and moving facts of human 
existence. Although the inward images that shape the 
creations of man exist only in the individual mind and 
achieve value through individual vitality and feeling, the 
forms come largely from without; men can work only in 
the idiom of their time and place. Lawrence wrote: 

IVhctt the Hitidus weave thin wool into long, long lengths of stuff 

ivith their thin dark hands and their wide dark eyes and their still 
souls absorbed 

they arc like slender trees putting forth leaves, a long white 
web of living leaf 
the tissues they weave, 

and they clothe themselves in white as a tree clothes itself in its 
own foliage. 

As until cloth, so with houses, ships, shoes, wagons or cups or loaves. 

Men might put them prth as a snail its shell, as a bird that leans 
its breast against its nest, to wake it round, 

as the turnip models his round root, as the bush wakes flotvers and 
gooseberries . . , 

This is an essential part of the matter, but with it goes also 
the power of time and place. The snail’s shell is changing as 
the ammonites changed during their scores of millions of 
years, but with our own perspectives we can watch only tlie 
evolution of what we ourselves put forth, our owm culture. 
There were already local distinctions in the products of stone 
and clay of the Neolithic peoples in Britain, but they were 
rough and unsatisfying; now with rich ornaments, nobly 
proportioned weapons and tools, British culture achieves its 
own highly distinguished forms. 

Before the end of the Bronze Age, but when tlic earlier 



peoples and their cultures were already fused and honx)- 
geneous, fresh invaders came to interrupt the development 
of native habits and traditions. These were Celtic-speaking 
peoples from France and the Low Countries. For a thousand 
years until the Roman conquest they were to continue 
their incursions, each group finding what space it could 
among the existing population, some imposing themselves 
by force, others edging in more peacefully where resistance 
was slight. 

These invaders profoundly affected the manner in W'hich 
men lived from the land, they introduced languages which 
are still spoken by millions of people in these islands, and 
they added something to our physical and mental inheri- 
tance which is alive and active in everything we do. Because 
in Wales and some parts of Scotland there arc small dark 
people speaking Celtic languages there is a tendency to 
think that the original Celtic invaders were of this racial type. 
This was not so. Tlic Celts, in so far as they had a racial 
character, were neither small nor dark, these features come 
frojn far earlier Neolithic stocks. The old language and the 
still more ancient ficc alike have survived, and have united, 
under the conservative influence of the mountains. 

Until this late point in the Bronze Age the interests of die 
people had remained those of pastoralists. They cultivated 
corn, but in small irregular and probably impermanent 
patches; their main concern was to follow the seasonal pas- 
tures for their cattle. As a result, althougli men, women and 
children must have been familiar enough with their tribal 
territories, they lacked that closer sense of attachment which 
may be given by a substantial and permanent homestead. 

It was the Celtic invaders who introduced settled farm- 
ing. Where before the soil had been tilled by hand, the Celts 



used an ox-drawn plough, and with the plough a regular 
system of fields whose boundaries might have remained 
constant for centuries. If the rectangular meshes of these 
field systems still show on many of our chalk downs when 
the light is favourable, they may be said still to be in use in 
some parts of the West Country and in Ireland. Agriculture 
of this kind led to the permanent farm and settled village, 
together with the habits of mind dependent upon generation 
after generation being born in the same place and even in the 
same house. With this change the development of a peas- 
antry became possible, and indeed unavoidable. Once a way 
of life was established in which the old expected the young 
to inherit their houses and fields, there was, I believe, no 
equally deep change in the feeling of country life until 
subsistence farming was displaced by industrial agriculture. 
Variations in land tenure and methods of working, in legal 
status and in religion were always affecting it, but never I 
think so completely or so near the root. 

During the period of Celtic immigration one of those 
technical revolutions took place that make the cojincctions 
between men and their land always a little insecure, leaving 
their trail of abandoned fields, mines, quarries, harbours, 
mills and factories. It was about five hundred years before 
Christ that iron began to take the place of bronze for tools 
and weapons. This meant a gradual but inexorable weaken- 
ing of the trade in copper and tin ores and in the higlJy 
organized international trade in bronze goods; it meant also 
a permanent lowering of the importance of the mountain 
country whose rocks held the ores of tin and copper. Iron 
occurs in the younger formations, particularly in the Jurassic 
and succeeding Cretaceous, and its adoption therefore 
shifted the metal industry eastward into lowland England. 



The main centres of early iron working were in the Forest 
of Dean, tlie ironstones of the Jurassic belt and in the Sussex 
Weald. The sources of the new metal being more wide- 
spread and accessible than those of bronze, the industry was 
more parochial in its organization; the blacksmith could 
hardly become the international traveller, the bearer of news, 
rumours and tales that the bronze founder had been. 
Nevertheless, iron put effective tools into every man’s hands 
anei so equipped the population far more effectively for their 
struggle with the land. 

The invaders brought with them another possession older 
than the knowledge of iron : the Celtic language and all that 
it implied of modes of thought and imagination. The 
earliest corners, it appears, sp('>kc the form of the tongue 
ancestral to Gaelic and Irish, while the Brythoiiic form that 
WMS to give rise to Welsh and Cornish was introduced in 
the Iron Age. It is amusing, and would to them have been 
surprising, to think of the language introduced by these 
rovers and warriors now being taught compulsorily under 
regulations of the Ministry of Education. But I like to 
imagine the sounds of it flowing like waiter ajnong the 
mountains for three thousand years, a sound rising during 
the day and by night fading to a faint amorous murmur. 
Even in England many Celtic place names survive, often 
attached to rivers or hills; the names of many towiis arc 
Celtic or partly Celtic, among them Canterbury, York and 
London. These names jut through those of die Anglo- 
Saxon countryside, the English language that has flowed all 
round them, rather as the Cleveland hills once jutted through 
the iceshects. 

The Celts have marked the countryside wnth their names, 
and also with their buildings. I have said that the true centre 



of a people’s interest and passion can be judged by the nature 
of the buildings to which they will devote most labour and 
most material. With these Iron Age tribesmen it was not 
ancestral tombs, not temples, towards which they showed 
this passion, but military fortifications, the forts that are still 
so conspicuous among our hiUs and mountains. Some of 
them have by one means or another become features of our 
national consciousness; there is Chanctonbury Ring, where 
the chaffinches sing in a lonely beech clump, presiding over 
a wide stretch of the Weald, and Maiden Castle, a stupen- 
dous monument drawn into our literature by Hardy; the 
Wrekin where within the ramparts there was once an 
Armada beacon, and now a winking red light to warn 
aircraft off this precipitous outlier of the mountains. Others 
of these forts, while they arc not funous in our country life 
or hterature, make pleasant uncultivable retreats in an over- 
crowded island. There often small boys will rehearse the 
bloodier storniings of other days; sometimes the banks and 
the hollows between them make picnic grounds or a 
trystiiig place for lovers. 

If lovers do make good use of these decaying forts, it 
symbolizes the slow victories of the Great Goddess over her 
rival. For the late Celtic societies that built them represent 
the masculine ideal in one of its purest forms. If after the 
early Bronze Age invasions the heroic ideal weakened and 
the goddess offered herself again not perhaps on the throne 
but in a host of local cults, the late Iron Age invasions cer- 
tainly reimposed the values of a warrior society. Not only 
did the greatest communal labour go to building massive 
fortifications, but the gifts and skills of die Celtic artists 
were used to make splendid armour and weapons — inlaid 
swords, shields and hehnets, die whole heroic impedimenta 



of epic. It was not by chance that Caniuloduntun, the 
last Celtic capital, was dedicated to Camulos, the god of 

It must in part have been the kind of society that long 
survived in the Highlands, wlicre, as a self-righteous 
soutlicnier observed, ‘the people of the country were averse 
to industry. The spirit of clanship whicli prevailed was very 
unfavourable to it. The different chnis spent a great part of 
their time in avenging themselves on each other. The man 
w'ho could best handle his sword and his gun w\as deemed 
the prettiest fellow.’ Daniel Defoe, w^hen he saw clansmen 
in Edinburgh, sneered (with Avhat deep undertones of social 
envy and discomfi:>rt), ‘They arc all gentlemen, will take 
affront from no man, and insolent to the last degree. But 
certainly the absurdity is ridiculous to see a man in his 
mountain habit, armed with a broad sword, target, pistol, at 
his girdle a dagger, and staffs walking dowai the High Street 
as upright and haughty as if he were a lord, and withal 
driving a cow ! bless us — arc these the gentlemen ! said L’ 
Substitute a spear or sling for the pistol, and there you have 
it — and with Gaelic still on the tongue. 

Aldiough the acceptance of settled firming, the springing 
up of farms, the .spread of fields, cart tracks and lanes, the 
growtli of villages, must profoundly have altered the appear- 
ance of the country, the main pattern of settlement remained 
almost unchanged. It was still a settlement of the light soils, 
of the hills and the well-drained river gravels. On the richer 
or heavier soils, the forests still grew where they had grown 
for more dian five thousand years, the humus and leaf mould 
slowly mounting beneath them. Except for the arrival of 
the beech tree during the Bronze Age, their appearance, 
dieir atmosphere, cannot have changed significantly since 



Mesolithic times. They were still full of wild animals — 
wolf, bear, aurochs, lynx — but these did not appear to men 
to be so dangerous as the impalpable tlireats — the hidden 
eyes, the Terror of the Wild Wood to which stronger men 
than Mr. Mole have given way. 

Towards the end of the Iron Age, during the last century 
of Britain’s prehistoric freedom and barbarism, this old 
agricultural pattern began to shift towards the very different 
one that was to be established by the time of the Domesday 
survey and which is still maintained. The last pre-Roman 
invadcis of Britain were a mixed Celtic and Teutonic people 
who settled in the south-east and were still pushing victori- 
ously deeper and deeper into the West Country at the 
moment of the Roman conquest. They were a reinarkablc 
people, and a people important in these memoirs for several 
reasons. Their powerful and ambitious dynastic princes were 
responsible for the formation of larger political units, until 
their last great ruler, Ciuiobclin, from his capital of Camulo- 
dmuim, was in control of the whole of the south-eastern 
part of the island and was recognized as Rex BriUvmiae, 
Perhaps it was the enhanced energy of their larger kingdojns, 
and tlieir skill as iron workers, as well as habits of life 
brought with tliem from the Continent, that made the Bclgae 
begin the shift of settlement towards the forest lands. They 
did not challenge the gross, waterlogged glacial clays of the 
Midlands and some regions of East Anglia, but in many parts 
of tlie Sussex Plain, Kent, Essex and Hertfordshire they 
cleared the fertile loam soils and raised harvests of wheat and 
barley far heavier than were ever hoped for from the upland 
fields. It was the beginning of a great letting in of hght 
among the darkness of primeval Britain. 

The estabhshnient of a powerful kingdom in the soutli- 



cast, tills increase in its fertility and the growth of cross- 
Channel trade with the Roman Empire, hastened another 
shift in the pattern of settlement. Ever since die coming of 
the first Neolithic farmers, and more markedly since the 
Bronze Age, the great sweep of downland known as 
Salisbury Plain had been a focus of population and pros- 
perity. Now that centre was to move to the south-east, not 
immediately to London, for the twin liills on which the 
city w^as soon to rise were still cut off by marsh and forest, 
but to Camulodimimi, on the estuary of the Colne, its 
natural precursor. No further princely graves were to be 
added to those of the Bronze Age chieftains who lay imdcr 
their moimds in the sacred areas round Avebury and Stone- 
henge, eacli body resting in modest splendour with its 
bronze, gold, amber or funerary vessels. 

Writing of the Belgae I have come almost unawares on 
another of the tuming-points in these memoirs. Has it been 
noticed that they and dieir kings and cities have names, 
names of their own, not invented for them by successors w-ho 
try to remember them thousands of years after an anony- 
mous death? 

In a much earlier chapter I recorded the moment at which 
hfe had drawn itself a clear enough outline to leave a record 
in the rocks — spelt out in the bodies of the trilobites. Then 
came the moment at which consciousness was so far 
sharpened in the man-like apes that they were able to shape 
tools and so open the record of human activity. Then again 
the development of language; words assumed their out- 
lines, but drawn only in sound, in the air, as elusive almost 
as tlie calls of birds. Now comes the moment at which these 
sounds must be caught and fixed in as enduring a form as 
the statement of the trilobites. After tremendous struggles, a 



kind of battling with ghosts, men have invented letters and 
the sounds are caught and fixed. 

Written words were attached to Britain for the first time 
in the records of the Greek traveller Pytheas, who visited 
the island in the fourth century before Christ. His own 
writings have been lost, but he probably referred to the 
land by some variant of the name Pritania and he started 
tlie hare of the Cassitcridcs and die tin trade since pursued 
by hundreds of thousands of written words from the pens 
of Icanicd men. (That, of course, is one of the things about 
written words — their amazing fecundity. They also breed 
learned men.) Next there is Caesar himself; it is he who 
records the name of the Belgae and that of the first individual 
Briton to be known by name — Cassivelaunus, the Belgic 
King who led the resistance against him. By now the name 
of the land has become Britannia — but it can also be called 

So it begins, that vast accumulation of knowledge which 
has already given the British Museum millions of volumes 
and is adding to them at the rate of liundrcds a day. The un- 
distracted, uncivilized memory is wonderfully capacious, yet 
as even it caimot hold more than a limited amoiuit the 
records of an illiterate society arc like water running into a 
cistern with an open waste. Every new name or event that is 
added will push out older ones into oblivion. 

Although writing has not been so great a stimulus to 
consciousness and self-consciousness as speech, it has cer- 
tainly played a very great part in developing them, in 
making possible our Prousts and Lawrences. It has had 
another result of equal importance for diis record. It has 
done much to destroy the direct intuitive relationship 
between men and their surroundings. The members of 



a prehistoric tribal group knew everything about one 
another and their territory and would listen to die words of 
bards and travellers only as so much sweet moonshine to 
weave into their own lives. The written word has given men 
some superficial and theoretical knowledge of the whole 
world, has enabled them to live emotionally in a murder 
committed on die other side of the globe, while leaving 
them ignorant of their neighbourhood and of their neigh- 
bour. I will take as a symbolic example of this the nincteenth- 
century report of the Royal Commission for Rebuilding the 
Houses of Parliament. I will recall the minutes piling up, 
neatly written by the able young secretary, the Report 
issued: ‘for crystalline character, combined with a close 
approach to the equivalent proportions of carbonate of 
magnesia; for uniformity of structure, ficility and economy 
in conversion . . .’ and then the decaying fiicc of the Par- 
liament building. Beside that I will set a neat Wessex farm 
built centuries ago from nothing better than sarsen, chalk 
and straw. 

In Britain, as often elsewhere, the first impact of WTiting 
coincided with the imposition of an alien and more 
developed w'ay of life. Tlic effect on the c<^untrysidc of an 
imposition of tliis kind can be appreciated by anyone who 
has looked down from an aeroplane onto a land where a 
surviving rural population and culture are being partially 
controlled from a remote urban centre. One can see the 
manifestation of a spontaneous life delicately adjusted to its 
immediate surroundings. The lane that curves round a wood, 
that follows a contour or goes out of its way to reach a 
bridge; the fields so nicely fitted into the valley; the houses 
that have settled into a fold in the ground or sprung up 
boldly on the crown of a hill. Then across this scene where 



maji and nature are hand-in-glove cuts the work of those 
intellectuals who plan from far off, who know that a road, 
a railway, is needed from X to Y, five hundred miles away; 
who see the need for a power station at Z. Their roads seem 
to tie down the country-side with rigid lines insensitive to 
wood or river or contour; the power station looks as 
though it had been taken from a box and nailed to the 
ground. I have seen this most clearly when flying over 

It was to be seen (thougli not from the air) in an extreme 
form in Roman Britain. On to the negligent, intimate forms 
of the prehistoric settlement the Imperial government 
clamped its imperial policy — with roads, towns, frontier 
systems. The country had the new experience of control by 
trained and rational minds working tlirougli disciplined 
bodies of men; Roman engineers with military corvccs 
ruthlessly cutting roads dirough dense forest, up steep 
gradients and raising them above marshes. Towns were 
established at junctions or tlic crossing places of rivers, forts 
at strategic points; when it became evident that the northern 
mountains could withstand Rome, that their population 
would not be tamed, then the great frontier fortification of 
Hadrian’s Wall was completed along a line drawn firmly 
from Tyne to Solway. 

The tlicorctical possession of the very substance of die 
island passed to Rome; all the lead, iron, copper, tin whose 
mining the conquerors developed was the property of the 
Imperial government. 

The imposition and confiscation were not practised with- 
out skill. The Roman intellect was subtle enough to know 
that its planning could not immediately replace the old 
loyalties of die heart. So far as was reasonable the Celtic 
M 177 


tribal areas were kept as regions of local government and 
their central strongholds, though normally moved down 
from the upland situations that had gone with die pre- 
Bclgic way of life, were made municipal capitals. Because 
the texture of names is always interesting, and in order to 
show how far the social topography of that time still shows 
in outline behind our own, I will reproduce the main tribal 
regions, with the capitals and their modern counterparts. 

The Cantii; Duroveniuni Cantiacorum ; Canterbury. The 
Rcgni; Noviomagus; Chichester. The Atrebates; Callcva 
Atrebatum; Silchestcr. The Catuvcllauni; Vcrulamium; 
St. Alban’s. The Trinovantes; Camulodunum; Colchester. 
The Iceni; Venta Iccnorum; Caistor-ncxt-Norwich. The 
Durotriges; Durnovaria; Dorchester (Dorset). The Duninonii; 
Isca Dumnonioruni; Exeter. The Silures; Vciita Siliirum; 
Caerwent. The Coritani; Ratac Coritanoriim ; Leicester. 
The Cornovii; Viroconium Cornoviorum ; Wroxctcr. The 
Brigantes; Isurium Brigantuni; Aldborough. 

Wales is ahnost excluded, for although the mountain 
ramparts were broken as they were not in Scotland, the 
ancient peoples who lived among them were never alto- 
gether reduced and remained for long under Roman 
military government. Elsewhere the kings might be allowed 
for a time to rule in the tribal capitals, ‘but tliis was a tem- 
porary expedient, adopted only to ease the transition from 
barbarian freedom to the full mcjnbership of the Roman 
Commonwealth, which Tacitus called servitude’. How well 
the planning was done is shown by the fact that only three 
of these capitals are now desolate. Nevertheless it suffered 
from the weaknesses of distant control; the higlily romariizcd 
towns with their extravagant public buildings had not grown 
spontaneously, were always perhaps a little artificial, and 
with later vagaries of Imperial policy many began to decay. 



Sometimes the old natural, uncivilized life crept back into 
their formal arcliitecture; families lived in the once elegant 
houses as they would live in a hut, lighting their cooking 
fires on mosaic floors. 

Possibly because they were a more genuine part of native 
life it was through the country villas that Roman ideas cut 
most deeply into Britain. Although a few villas belonged to 
foreign officials and traders, most of them were built by 
romanized Britons, sometimes even on the fomidations of 
their old barbarous homes of wood and wattle. Indeed it 
may liave been that for a time the family system of owner- 
ship was maintained in them, but in every” other way they 
represent the upper-class Celt’s determination to accept 
civility and the repressions of intellectual control. Not only 
was there the material amenity of brick and stone architec- 
ture, central heating, pleasant verandas and fine furnishings, 
but the scenes on mosaic floors show that the Britons were 
trying tc.) absorb die mythology and the literature of a Medi- 
terranean land few of them had ever seen. A short time 
before tliis moment of writing some enthusiasts, possessed 
by the lusts of conscious recollection, began to uncover a 
villa in the pleasant Darent Valley in Kent. The place had 
been forgotten for fifteen hundred years when in the eigh- 
teenth century men sinking posts for the enclosure of Lulling- 
stone Park brought up some handfuls of tesserae from a 
mosaic floor. When recently the pavement was uncovered 
the heads of women representing Spring (with a red-diroated 
swallow on her shoulder), Autimm and Winter were found 
in position and made secure, but the little coloured blocks 
brought out of the eighteenth-ccntuiy” post hole had been 
Summer — and she has returned to chaos. A step or two 
away the tesserae had been holding a mild Latin joke for a 



millennium and a half in the subterranean darkness of a 
Kentish wood. Above a representation of Europa and the 
bull is written : 

Invida si tauri vidisset Jutw Natattis 

Justins Aeolias isset ad usque domes. 

The suggestion that Juno would have more cause for 
jealousy if she could see her husband carrying off Europa is 
hardly supported by die picture — Roman provincial mosaic 
work is a frigid incdiLim for representing the flesh of women. 
But the spirit of the fourth-century country liouse is in the 
inscription; the satisfaction in the sophisticated little literary 
witticism and in the implied funiliarity with Virgil; the 
hope of showing it to neighbouring Lumpkins who did not 
know their Acneid, whose laughter was obviously hollow. 
Lower down in the basement of an older house on this site 
the excavators uncovered two marble busts, portraits of 
substantial gentlemen, perhaps eminent officials of die 
Province. One had fdlcii frc'>m his shelf and was found 
pedestal up, biting the rnud, but the other emerged head- 
first as the soil accumulated during fifteen liundred autumns 
and winters was cleared away. The white countenance 
looked placidly out of the hole, a little mud clinging to the 
strands of his beard, lodged in the neat curls of his hair. 
These second-rate works of a civilization never artistically 
gifted, themselves decorous pieces of furniture, had been 
overwhelmed in some catastrophe, then slowly buried in 
this English valley, the Mediterranean marble l>’ing among 
the native flints, pressed against the dark northern humus. 
They stayed there, these Imperial gentlemen, while the 
Anglo-Saxons re-established barbarism above their heads 
and while barbarism turned to a Christian feudalism which 



would have looked with suspicion on these staid and dig- 
nified pagans — would perhaps have burnt them for lime. 
It was bad luck that the busts were not found by the 
eighteenth-century diggers who destroyed Summer, for 
undoubtedly the owners of Lullingstone would have de- 
lighted in these genuine classical works coming from their 
own estates, saving them from the swindles of foreign 
dealers. They missed another opportunity with the Vic- 
torians iji whose aesthetic climate they would have been so 
perfectly at home. So fate left then] there too long and 
allowed them to emerge into a world whose taste had turned 
against them, the world of Henry Moore that could receive 
them only as interesting specimens, food for its curiosity like 
the dinosaurs or Swanscombe Man. I ask, did these impassive 
and unseen heads remain unchanged by the mental tides 
flowing above them ; can they be said to have been the same 
objects in the Dark Ages, in medieval times, in the eighteenth 
or the nineteen til century? 

There were other villas even in the Darcnt valley, many 
others in Kent, for it was in the Home Counties and the rest 
of southern England that these country houses and their 
estates were first established and where they were always 
most prosperous. As the military frontiers were secured, 
however, they began to be built in East Anglia and South 
Wales, up the main roads that cut the Midlands and even 
on the fringes of the military area in Yorkshire. When- 
ever possible, they were built on the slopes of sheltered 
valleys, on just such sites as appear desirable for their 
coimtcrparts to-day, and the cultivation of theii gardens 
and estates continued die forest clearance begun by the 
Belgac in the days of their independence For these heavier 
soils, hea\der ploughs were needed, and with their use went 



the more efScient forms of long strip fields. The cultivation 
of the villa estates was in fact more developed than that 
of the peasants who still tilled the light soils in the tradi- 
tion:d small Celtic fields and lived in hamlets or villages 
of simple huts hardly clianged since the prehistoric Iron 
Age. Rome had brought the peasants peace but had also 
robbed them of many of its benefits by taxation; it had 
given them a few trifling luxuries and participation in the 
greatest Empire in die world, while taking their indepen- 
dence and the endiusiasms of tribal loyalty. Except in these 
fundamentals, their life was little changed. 

So for nearly four centuries lowland Britain lay exposed 
as a part of a Mediterranean empire. London was its capital 
but hardly its living heart. The land and die people were 
more self-conscious than they had ever been and yet they 
lacked the inward-looking organic life of a nation. With its 
roads, towns, villas and above all with its frontiers held by 
troops drawn from far and near, it lay as a remote province, 
an outwork defended against the vigorous, dark, un- 
recorded life of the barbarians of the west and north. The 
pressure of tliis life was always felt on the frontiers, and 
when at last it began to break in it was as if unconscious 
forces were reasserting themselves against the intellect. The 
violent, fragmentary and incoherent raids from Ireland, 
Scotland and northern Europe wxrc very like an upsurge of 
passions and emotions long held in check by an intellectual 
discipline represented by the Imperial army and administra- 

When at last the soldiers and officials liad to withdraw 
from the Province, the Britons were exposed and vulner- 
able; they had lost the strength of instinctive life but had not 
themselves the intellectual force to maintain a rational 



organization. The unity of the Province broke up; there 
were no longer jninds empowered to think on so large a 
scale. During the first half of the fifth century, a period of 
misty defence and blind attacks, the Britons tried to main- 
tain tlieir romanized way of life. The owners of villa 
estates can be imagined living much as the owners of large 
country houses live to-day. Widi their servants and labourers 
leaving them, the amenities and services of civilization 
collapsing one after the other, they lived off tlicir own 
produce, trying to maintain the civilities while fatuously 
waiting for a rctiini of normal times. The forces of disin- 
tegration were too strong for tliem. Leaking roofs were 
not mended and each winter more tiles split and slipped; 
the water came in and loosened the mosaic floors, tesserae 
came up and were not reset. Then a gale, a heavy fall of 
snow, and there was a collapse that could never be made 
good; the tiny citadel of civilized living contracted still 
further. At last the owner might abandon the struggle with 
his derelict home and go to the nearest town where some 
form of civic organization was tenuously maintained. 
Sometimes a villa was brought to an end by the pillage, fire 
and murder of a barbarian raid, but more often it was by 
these quieter, sadder processes of decay. 

Then the raids from Ireland and Scotland and northern 
Europe developed into mass settlement by the northern 
peoples. The Angles from Schleswig chose the more 
northerly parts of the east coast of England; the Saxons from 
the region of the Erns and Weser went to the south of them 
and pressed up the Thames valley; the Jutes who settled 
Kent and the Isle of Wight came not immediately from 
Jutland but from the Frisian and Saxon coasts. Often the 
bands were much mixed for they were formed of all those 



who cared to attach themselves to a well-known battle 
leader. This was the source of barbarian strength, die power 
bcliind the tremendous blows of their attack on the decaying 
intellectual civilization of Britain. Heroic society was fired 
by a fierce loyalty to comrades and an added devotion to the 
leader, the ‘dear lord’. We cannot recall what that life was 
really like, what treacheries and cruelties wTiit with it. But 
its ideals are known in the forms in which they long 

Edric, too, would help that day. 

And ere the levy began 

To stride forth with broad shields flung on them, 

He was roused for battle play. 

Performing the boast vowed to his lord, 

To defend him to naked death. 

Byrhtnoth too sets his array 

Of warriors and inspirits them with his breath. 

Riding and advising, he heartens the horde, 

Tells them how to stand their ground, not give one inch away. 
When he had rightly prepared them, this lord 
Lights off his horse and stands among his people 
Where he loved best to be — 

Among his troops oj dependants and hearth^iordc. 

Without a lord the heroic warrior was utterly forlorn. 

The man who must alone forgo 
His wise lord's sayings, dreametli so 
When sorrow and sleep together hind 
The poor heart singled from its kind ; — 

He thinks that as of old his lord 
Is taking homage from the horde, 

And that he mounts to the great place 
To kiss his master and embrace 
And lay down both hands and head 
On his knee— for that life he led! 

The lordless man then ivakcs and finds 
The fallow sea stripped by cold winds 


With seabirds sousing in the spray. 

And the hail and the snow seep down day by day. 

Heavier are wounds then 
For the sweet lord in his heart. And when 
The sorrow of the thoughts of kin 
Runs through his mind and searches in, 

His heart goes to find them in the hall 
The warriors of old strength. 

As well as noble deeds the lord was expected to show 
hberality, the long-lived ideal of the aristocrat scattering 
gold among his people. Indeed no poetry, not even the 
recent incantations of Edith Sitwell, is more laden with gold 
than tluit of the Anglo-Saxons; it is made to shine on halls, 
armour, weapons, in the robes of women and above all 
falhng from the hand of the lord or king. Beowolf says of 
the aged king Scyld Scefmg: 

A man does well who gives, as he did there, 

Treasures from his father' s store with open hand; 

Then his dear company beside him yet, 

When trouble comes, for him shall stand. 

By deeds worth praise a man grows great 
In every country. 

Perhaps materialists will not understand this mixture of love, 
loyalty and gold tliat bound the warrior band. The gold was 
not taken for itself so much as for a symbol of liberalit) — 
perhaps almost of fertility, the old gift of the king to his 

Tliis, at any rate, was the ideal of the bands who sailed 
along the ‘whale’s path’ to turn a senile Roman Britain into 
a raw young Saxon England. The warriors climbed into 
their ship. 

She went like a bird afloat with foamy neck 
Pressed by the wind — till the due hour next day 
When they saw Jrom the bent prow the hrim-clfis break 
Out of the sea — the wide dunes, the stcepnip batiks. 



It was an important monient for the physical inheritance of 
the present, for deciding the nature of the genes tliat each 
generation might receive and transmit. The monient, too, 
insured some quality in the culture of this land which has 
left it neither Latin nor Teutonic. 

It has not yet been clearly recalled how much of Roman 
Britain was caught up into the life of die newcomers. How 
far towns, land systems laws, and customs survived, or how 
many of the Britons lived to mix immediately or at last 
with their conquerors. For my purpose these obscurities of 
memory arc not important. Undoubtedly even in the cast 
much of the old population did survive and the women 
from the very first were taken as wives. They were able 
to influence the details of domestic life and teach something 
of their native legends and ideals to their half-British 
children. On the other hand, except where, as in Kent, the 
Anglo-Saxons came at the invitation of the Britons, there 
can have been no real continuity between the organized 
life of the Roman Province and the instinctive life of the 
barbarians. It w'as made impossible by the essential nature 
of each. 

The invasions were almost as incoherent, as empirical as 
those of prehistoric times, and the invaders had to fit them- 
selves into the land as they found it before they could begin, 
without plan or intention, to remould it. In so doing, 
inevitably they were drawn to the open and still cultivated 
lands that encircled the decaying towns. But just as it made 
little difference to the Britons whether they were struggling 
to maintain disorganized lives in the comer of a forum or the 
comer of a cave, so the Anglo-Saxons accepted the relics of 
Roman civihzation as a natural if awe-inspiring feature of 

1 86 


their new land. (Perhaps this naive vision was the true in- 

Curious is this stonework I The Fates destroyed it; 

The torn buildings falter; moulders the work of giants. 

The roofs are tipped down, the turrets turn over, 

The barred gate is broken, white lies on mortar 

The frost, and open stands the arching, cumber of lumber 

Eaten under with age. Earth has the Lord-Builders. 

As the Saxon settlements consolidated and pushed west- 
ward, resistance increased. The impetus of invasion was 
slackening and the Britons themselves were recovering from 
the helplessness of organized men whose organization had 
collapsed. Their own instinctive life was reviving, and with 
it martial loyalties more equal to opposing those of the 
invaders. The symbol of this revival is King Arthur, whose 
victories checked the advance long enough to ensure that in 
what had been the heart of prehistoric Britain, the still 
populous region of Wessex, there was time for more peace- 
ful contact between the two peoples. When the advance 
went forward again it was certain that the Britons, the living 
inlieritance of the prehistoric past, woidd be absorbed by 
their conquerors in sufficient force to leave their mark on 
die western countryside. Their place names, although much 
changed by passage across English tongues, have survived to 
be fixed at last in the neat lettering and regular spelling of 
the Ordnance Survey maps. The distinctive pattern of their 
settlement, with its scattered hamlets and farms taking the 
place of the snug villages of the Anglo-Saxons, still subdy 
effects the landscape of our western counties. 

If the tide of invasion was already weakening in England, 
it was assured that furdier west and north the highlands 



would hold out against the Teutonic hordes as they had 
against Roman intelligence. Cornishmen, Welsh and Scots 
were destined to remain themselves, to enrich Britain 
with their own art and literature, their own heroes, and to 
send tlicir ablest children down from the hills to mingle 
witli the lowland English, adding the mysticism, the courage 
and toughness preserved or enlianccd by their native rocks. 
The English might fight, curse and mock them, but within 
the small compass of our land this constant descent of hill 
people has meant as much as the infiltration of desert 
nomads to the fertile lands of tlie East. It is in any case a 
great advantage for any people to be able to heighten their 
own character and consciousness by the fighting, cursing 
and mocking of opponents whom they do not fear too 

Although the Anglo-Saxons settled at first along the open 
river sides where they left their boats, and on the light soils 
already cleared and cultivated, they soon began an assault 
on the forests which w’as to alter the whole character of 
the occupation of the land. It was a movement of popu- 
lation almost as fiir-reaching as that brought about by 
the Industrial Revolution a thousand years later. They 
pushed up valleys, turning the bottoms into water meadows 
and terracing the flanks with their long, narrow fields. Even 
the great forests of the Midlands did not daunt diem; by the 
eighth century the Saxons had cut the rich kingdom of 
Mercia from land which liad long been hidden under a 
dense covering of oak forest and tangled undergrowth. In 
short they accelerated wnth all the energy of a young people 
the shift from the light to heavy soils begun by the Belgae 
and mildly continued by their descendants in Roman 
Britain. It was a mo\’C destined to make an enormous 



increase in the amount of food which men could raise from 
the land. 

The Danes and Norsemen made little difference to this 
steady trend; their coming was a last upsurge of the instinc- 
tive life of prehistoric times into the growing light of 
Christian England. The Danes added some vigorous stock 
to the peoples of eastern and nortliern England together 
with many place names, a few country words and country 
habits that still linger here and diere — as among the York- 
shire dalesmen. The Norwegians occupied, and still occupy, 
the Shctlands and Orkneys, and were the first to pene- 
trate that mass of buckled rocks and volcanic flows which 
wc now demurely call the Lake District. One important 
influence tliey exercised on Britain was in the stimulus they 
gave to the growth of towms. Not towns at all of the Roman 
kind, for they had no urbanity, no formal civic dignity, but 
were part of the organic growth of society, serving the 
needs of the land, of the sea, and the commerce between 

By the time of the Domesday survey the shift of arable 
farming to tlie heavy soils was almost complete; the uplands 
were reverting to pasture and their small Celtic fields were 
already hardly more than fiiint shadows on the tinf. Soon 
they would be supporting the vast flocks of sheep that 
brought wealth to medieval England. 

Domesday Book, a name which has pressed its gloomy 
sound into the mind of every schoolchild in Britain, is 
another landmark in my narrative, another stage in the 
creation of this country. I have recalled how a vague aware- 
ness of the form and character of the island had grown in the 
minds of its early inhabitants before it had been pinned down 
by written names, given furdier precision by Greek map 



makers and a sharp though temporary clarity in the intellec- 
tual concepts of Roman engineers, administrators and 
generals. Now the islanders were themselves to record all the 
leading facts of their material lives. Througliout the country 
men were called together to declare the state of their com- 
munities, their numbers and possessions in flocks and herds, 
pigs, ploughs and plough teams. Each man described the 
small realm formed by the illumined sphere of his owi per- 
ceptions, beyond which all was shadowy. These many 
lighted plots wx're amalgamated, their contents ordered and 
carefully inscribed on vellum. For the first time a moment 
in the material life of England had been so caught and fixed 
by written wa')rds that it could be mastered by a single mind. 

Domesday Book is a symbol of what is for my purpose 
the most significant result of the Norman conquest. This 
was the gathering of the people of England into a nation, a 
plant with as many roots in the land as there w^re people, 
and a structure dependent on obligations and loyalties 
bctwx'cn individuals, die wdiole growing round the sacred 
and secular powers of the king. 

Although the mountains were still an effective barrier pro- 
tecting their own forms of life and thought, England had 
achieved a new unity. There was less intellectual coherence 
than in Roman times, no one thought of road systems or 
planned improvements; in spite of the survey there were 
probably far fewer people either able or inclined to think for 
the land as a wiiole. Yet as a living organism it was incom- 
parably stronger, just as a regiment is stronger than a 
Ministry of Defence. 

Domesday Book is a moving revelation of the conserva- 
tism of our countryside. Setting aside industrial encrustations, 
men arc Hving where they hved nine centuries ago; south 



of the Humber our villages, parishes, boroughs and counties 
had in large part been established before the Conquest. Any 
countryman who goes to consult the heavy volumes in the 
Record Office can expect to find the name of his village 
written there. 

It is this immense antiquity that gives our land its look of 
confidence and peace, its power to give both rest and 
inspiration. When retuniing from hill or moor one looks 
down on a village, one’s destination, swaddled in trees, and 
with only the church tower breaking the thin blue layer of 
evening smoke, the emotion it provokes is as precious as it 
may be commonplace. Time, that has caressed this place 
until it lies as comfortably as a favourite cat in an armchair, 
caresses also even the least imaginative of beholders. 

Every individual clings to the memories and relics of his 
own youth, and it may be that as a people we are no less 
dependent on our past, and even on its material remains. We 
may need to see that within the unceasing process in which 
wc arc involved there remains this continuity, this possibility 
of rest. If wx' ignore it, break with and forget our past, then 
perhaps we shall all become the landless refugees of whom 
already an Anglo-Saxon poet said: 

The refugee is hated everywhere 
For his misery^ 

Building in stone masonry went out with the Romans, 
and although the later Saxons revived it, their energy was 
too scattered, too little organized, to enable diem to quarry 
and build on a massive scale. The Normans brought that 
combination of a strong faith with the concentration of 
power in a few hands that enables a nation to create its 
boldest monuments. As Christians and lately pagan warriors 



they devoted this exceptional force to castles, and (far the 
greater part of it) to cathedrals, abbeys and parish churches. 
All over tlie coimtry buildings went up in a bulk and quan- 
tity jievcr before known, and with a quality that Christian 
faith had alone made possible. 

At strategic points throughout the kingdom, earth was 
raised into castle mounds and keeps were built upon them ; 
the Conqueror’s own White Tower still stands near the 
heart of London as an example of all such building. Until 
the coming of mechanical diggers, tlie mounds were almost 
indestructible and scores still survive where die keep has 
gone. Easily the least dull of the Cambridge walks on which 
I was conducted by my nurse was to Castle Hill ; we would 
edge cautiously through the yard of the police station and 
dien scramble up the tussocky grass of this big pudding of 
earth that seemed so incongruous among the surrounding 
brick. From the top I could sec my house a long way off 
(always an exciting experience, and perhaps in fict die 
subject of diis book) and I liked to imagine this place when, 
as I innocently supposed, it had looked like the painting on 
the sign of the nearby Castle public-house. Haifa mile away 
I could sec die conical roof of the Round Church and 
pictured men-at-arms riding to it across the bridge. As for 
Norman church building, it is impossible to say whether the 
vast number of little country churches or the great cathedrals 
make most fitting monuments to the extraordinary energy 
released by the Conquest. Most of our village churches can 
show at least a small window or a blocked nordi door to 
prove that some part of their fabric was raised in Norman 
times. No building in Britain is more impressive than 
Durham Cathedral or has involved die raising of a greater 
weight of stone. Any spectator seeing it when all memory 



of its origins had gone would have had more reason than 
the Saxon poet at Bath for believing that this was the work 
of giants, that no puny men would have raised the gigantic 
columns of the vast, empty nave. 

There were never more than a few million people in 
medieval Britain, yet their building still dominates the 
wliolc land. Even in our industrial cities it is usually the 
medieval buildings that rise above the rest, with an aloof- 
ness, sometimes solemn, sometimes airily elegant, setting 
them apart from the surrounding commerce. We have as 
yet created nothing quite comparable with the scene in 
Wall Street where the black cliffs of the skyscrapers so 
dwarf St. John the Divine that it looks like a church fetched 
from Lilli put. 

As the last considerable addition to our racial stock, the 
Normans seem for a time to have introduced a round- 
headedness that was however soon absorbed in the flow of 
our prehistoric and Saxon inheritance. It was otherwise with 
their language, for while Norman French, too, was ab- 
sorbed, it certainly did not disappear but changed the colour 
of the English language. Temporarily it added to an English 
babel. While the conquerors welded England into a single 
strong state, even outside the Celtic-speaking lands, every 
region, almost every county, had its own dialect. Langland 
wrote in the once pre-emiircnt dialect of the west Midlands, 
but Chaucer (in whom the spirit of the later Middle Ages 
lives as the material world of the earlier phase lives in 
Domesday Book) did much to strengthen the courtly 
language of London. When Caxton built his press at West- 
minster, he saw, with astonishing good sense and foresight, 
how much his little leaden letters must do to fix down the 
English tongue, and it w^'as with careful deliberation that he 
N 193 


favoured tlie more polished, the more European forms of 
London. Soon, too, presses were being used for maps that 
for the first time forced the form of Britain into the con- 
sciousness of her people. The eager Tudor nation wanted a 
portrait of the land of which it was becoming consciously 
proud: the Queen herself saw the significance of the idea that 
her wide lands should be drawn into a book. That is why a 
lion and a dragon support the Tudor arms on every map in 
the splendid Atlas of England and Wales that Christopher 
Saxton completed in 1579. Shakespeare, when he wrote 
King Henry’s speech, would have had in his mind the 
images of many brightly coloured maps in which our coasts 
showed against a rippling sea. At the same time it was 
natural that the most sensitive minds also wanted to know 
and interpret the monuments of the country whose image, 
whose form, was becoming clearer and clearer before them. 
So die antiquaries began dieir journeys and their records; 
William Camden, the friend of Philip Sidney, published his 
Britannia in 1586. Here was the beginning of diat quickening 
quest of the consciousness for its o\vii origins of which I 
have already written and on behalf of which I write. 

Behind this growing clarity of the intellect die taming of 
the country — forest clearance and the reclaiming of ivaste — 
went forward as it had begun in Saxon times. When die 
Middle Ages came to an end few large tracts of primeval 
England remained. There were still substantial patches of 
woodland — the New Forest, Sherwood, Selwood, the 
Forests of Dean, Andred, Windsor, Epping and Arden, 
there were the reedy swamps of the East Anglian fens, but 
elsewhere outside the mountain regions most of the 
countryside had been modelled by man and was in daily 
use. The hedges, now so dear to English sentiment, gradu- 



ally spread their lines as common waste and coppice and the 
open fields of the medieval villages were enclosed. At the 
same time men were being released from a system which 
saw them not as creatures of the land, as they arc, but as 
creatures bound by law to one plot, part of its equipment, 
and largely at the disposal of their landlords. The new sys- 
tem, by putting more energy into the working of large 
firms and estates, certainly made the countryside more 
comely, even while it weakened the structure of human 
society. It was the necessary preparation for the pride of 
high farming in the eighteenth century. 

By Tudor times a country that had once been choked with 
trees was growing short of timber. How many tens of 
thousands of trunks had crashed down since a Mesolithic 
hunter first applied a flint axe? Oak was needed for the fine 
half-timbered houses of the merchants and for their ships. 
Much fuel W'as needed for the smelting of iron. Already in 
some regions the shortage w^as so severe that families were 
deprived of the fire on the hearth tliat had burned without 
thought or question since the beginning of human liistory. 
The Romans had used coal, and during the Middle Ages it 
had been burnt in London and in other places where it could 
readily be shipped from Durham and Tyneside. Now, how- 
ever, with their own forests dissipated, Englishmen began 
to plunder the Carboniferous forests with a necessary 
vigour. They pursued those narrow black bands in the shale 
that had already been laid down, crumpled up and partially 
worn away before the appearance of the first mammals. 
Tudor builders were much employed in adapting fireplaces 
and chimneys to the fierce new fuel; in Sussex the forges of 
the Weald were turning out their handsome iron fircbacks. 
Coal, once easily to be had on the surface, was followed 



deeper and deeper underground. By the seventeenth century 
men were workijig four hundred feet dowi, tliis being the 
earliest occasion on which die surface of the earth had 
anywhere been so outraged by the creatures it had borne. 
Cut oft from the land and its cultivation and from their 
fellows, labouring in primitive timncls where often they 
were destroyed by explosions of gas, the miners became the 
first considerable industrial population. Gold and silver, 
those naturally sacred metals, wxre the property of the 
Crowm, but otherwise it was assumed that the owner of the 
land surface also owned everything that lay below it, down 
(one supposes) to a narrow’ point at the centre of the globe. 
So it w\as that landow’ners became coalowners and very rich 
men. For better, for worse, fortunes came to them, and 
certainly much of the pow’cr wdiich they drew- from be- 
low ground wms directed towards enriching its surface, 
towards creating noble houses and parks. In its early days, 
coal could serve as the manure of beauty. It wtis not un- 
suitable that a tax should have been levied on it to rebuild 
St. Paul’s. 

Iron-working increased with coal-mining, but it was not 
until the eighteenth century that the two were to be brought 
together. Iron wms still smelted with charcoal and the fur- 
naces w'erc fast devouring the surviving forests. In particular 
Birmingham w^as developing the activity that in time was to 
send fragments of England to every quarter of the globe, 
worked into every imaginable useful object or useless 
knick-knack. Before the end of the seventeenth century 
Birmingham had devoured the Forest of Arden. The virgin 
ground north-west of the Avon on which it had stood made 
magnificent corn lands, but the ‘poor dappled fools’ were 
killed or scattered and with them and their deep w^oods, 



here and throughout the country, there perhaps vanished one 
of the sources from 'which poetry had sprung. 

Beliind this innovation, this new relationship that allowed 
large numbers of men to plunder the land and no longer to 
seek its fertility, a change in the direction of huinan con- 
sciousness was gathering momentum. The Christianity of 
the Middle Ages had been a means for reuniting con- 
sciousness with its surroundings. It had fostered an intuitive 
life where inind still drew much from its deepest levels and 
saw the whole material world as the symbols of a reality 
of which it was a part. For the peasantry Mary and the 
resurrected Christ had again enthroned the Great Mother. 

Through the Renaissance something returned that had left 
Britain with the Romans: it returned not as an alien 
imposition as it had been then, but as an active principle 
accepted in the minds of a lusty young nation. The in tellect 
sharpened its knife. Jehovah overcame Mary and Christ; a 
divine king of the peasantry was beheaded; witches were 
hunted and maypoles with other fertility rites were des- 
troyed; a classical St. PauFs rose on the foundations of the 
Gothic catliedral; Newton saw the apple fall. 

So Britain sailed into the ciglitcenth century, the last 
flame of the old ideas was extinguished with Bonnie Prince 
Charlie, and for a moment it seemed that the intellect could 
rule, and that the ncAV relationship to the land could enrich 
and not harm the old. Crabbe may have felt that the cares 
that ‘form the real picture of the poor, Demand a song’ but 
there is no knowing what he would feel was demanded by 
the back streets of Liverpool, or Oxford Street on a hot 

Only the most prejudiced can deny that the eighteenth 
century, and especially the reign of Queen Anne, was for all 



classes one of die best times to have been alive in this 
country. It is idiocy to pretend that to live in a lovely 
countryside, to handle only comely things, and to know 
that only comely things will issue from your hands is of 
no importance when set beside the amount of cash in your 

It was a good time, for reason was still living on the 
fertihty of the Great Goddess, the Whig aristocracy on the 
loyalties of feudalism. Somewhere under the feet of diese 
aristocrats as they carefully cultivated the aesthetic qualities 
of landscape the miners were driving tlieir tunnels, while in 
Georgian back rooms Watt, Arkwright, and their fellows 
wxre working on the prototypes for the macliine age. 


Land and Machines 

M any landmarks have been recorded dur- 
ing the course of these memoirs, but now the 
Industrial Revolution appears not as a mark 
on a continuous road, but an abrupt turning- 
point. For an incalculably great length of time men had been 
relating themselves more and more closely and effectively 
to the land. For the past four or five thousand years they had 
laboured as farmers, clearing the forests, reclaiming waste 
and swamp, hedging and ditching. The struggle of two 
hundred generations of cultivators had its culmination in the 
high firming of the eighteenth and early nineteenth cen- 
turies. Now those thousands of years of wooing fertility 
under the sun and rain were to be half forgotten in a third 
way of living which resembles the first, that of the hunters, 
in its predatory dependence on the natural resources of the 

From this time the pattern of settlement was no longer to 
be decided by the character of the soil, the surface features of 
the land and the climate, but by the distribution of the 
deposits wliich time had left far below the surface. Huge 
numbers left farms and villages and swarmed to the places 
where coal and metal ores lay hidden; once there they 
showed an extraordinary fecundity. The population doubled 
and doubled again. By the middle of the nineteenth century 
half the people of Britain were living in tovms, a situation 
new in the history of great nations. 

Those town-dwellers, cut off from the soil and from food 



production, soon lost all those arts and skills which had 
always been the possession if not of every man, then of 
every small community. The sons and dauglners of the first 
generation of town dwellers were not tauglit how to use eye 
and hand in the traditional skills, and, a loss of absolute 
finality, they could not inherit all the traditional forms, the 
shape for an axe handle, a yoke, for a pair of tongs; the 
proportions of cottage doors and windows, the designs for 
smocking, lace-making, embroidery. Some of these forms, 
because they had achieved fitness for their purpose as com- 
plete as the unchanging bodies of the insects, had remained 
constant for centuries or millennia, others w'cre always 
evolving yet maintained their continuity. Now all of them, 
or almost all, were to fade from the common imaeination, 
to become extinct. I know of only one traditional form for 
an everyday tool which has been adapted w'ithout loss to 
machine production; this is the exejuisitely curved and 
modulated handle of the w'ood-cuttcr’s axe. 

With the extinction of ancient arts and skills there went 
also countless local rites, customs, legends and liist(’)rics. All 
these, wdicther or no they had been adapted to the Christian 
myth, were survivals of a paganism that helped to unite 
country people wnth nature and their own ancestors. Stories 
and names for fields and lanes recalled men and women who 
had worked the land before them ; legends still commem- 
orated local deities who had lived in wood, water and stone; 
many customs recognized and assisted in the main crises of 
individual lives; rites helped to harmonize these individual 
rhythms with the greater rhythms of nature — they cele- 
brated the return of the sun, the resurrection of the corn, 
harvest, and the return of death. 

Without these immemorial tics, personal and universal, 



relating men to their surroundings in time and space, the 
isolation of human consciousness by urban life was a most 
violent challenge. It gave opportunity for the heightening 
of consciousness and the sharpening of intellect, but human 
weakness and material circumstances made it impossible for 
any but the few gifted or fortunate to respond. The urban 
masses ha ving lost all the traditions I have just named which 
together make up the inheritance which may be called cul- 
ture, tended to become, as individuals, culturcless. Tlie women 
were in better case, for all except the most down-trodden 
could rear children, clean, launder, sew and cook after a 
fashion, though all their work was dulled and robbed of 
distinction by the standardization and poor quality of their 
materials. (It is one of the more bizarre results of industrial- 
ism that the rich will now pay great sums to obtain goods 
that were once taken for granted by quite humble people. 
Such things as real honey, fresh butter and eggs, hand 
needlework, tiles made of real stone, reed thatch.) For the 
men it was far worse. Usually they could do only one thing; 
and that without direct relation to their own lives; when 
they returned from the set hours of ‘work* there was noth- 
ing for hand or imagination to do. So, wdien at last leisure 
was won for them, it proved to be a barren gift. 

I do not wish to suggest that there was any lessening of 
man’s dependence on the land, of his struggle to extract a 
living from it; that is the stuff of existence and cannc:)t be 
reduced. It is not true either that industry is lacking in its 
own bold regional variations ; the collieries with hoists and 
slag heaps, the steel furnaces, the clustering chimneys of the 
brick kilns, the potteries, all create their own landscape. But 
the individual life, the individual culture, was not sensi- 
tively adjusted to locality and the nature of the relationship 



was profoundly changed. It ceased to be creative, a patient 
and increasingly skilful love-making that had persuaded the 
land to flourish, and became destructive, a grabbing of 
material for man to destroy or to refashion to his own 
design. The intrusion of machines between hand and 
material completed the estrangement. 

By this new rapacious treatment of the land man cer- 
tainly made himself abundantly productive of material 
goods. But he cannot be sure of getting wliat he wants from 
the great cauldron of production. Meanwliile the land, with 
which he must always comitiue to livt\ shows in its ravaged face 
that husbandry has been succeeded by exploitation — an 
exploitation designed to satisfy man’s vanity, his greed and 
possessiveness, his wisii for domination. 

As a starting-point for the Revolution I shall choose the 
time about two hundred years ago, when men began to 
smelt iron with coke. Earlier attempts to use coal instead of 
wood had Exiled, but now, largely througli the efforts of 
generations of one Exmily, the Darbys of Shropshire, the 
new process was mastered and the coal-and-iron age of 
Victorian England was already within sight. It is, of course, 
possible to say that the real revolution, the tipping of the 
balance from agriculture to manufacture, took place later 
than tliis. Equally, or indeed with more justification, it can 
be claimed that it began much earlier with Tudor com- 
merce and the scientific ferment of the seventeenth century. 
I would agree, I w’^ould even wnllingly push it back to die 
depths of the Carboniferous forests; there is never a begin- 
ning. But I prefer to select the mating of coal and iron, for 
with the thought of it the weight and grime of the Black 
Country, the bustle and energy of material activity, at once 
take shape in the imagination. Besides, it was a time when 



die intellect, sharpened by the new scientific, analytical 
modes of thought, was achieving many other of the devices 
that made industrialism possible. In one year, 1769, Ark- 
wright gave the water frame to the cotton industry and 
Watt patented the steam-engine. Within another ten years 
the gorge of the Severn which had been cut in the Ice Age 
by the overflowing waters of Lake Lapworth was spanned 
by the first iron bridge to be built in the world. Together 
these closely consecutive events well represent the new 
forces of the Revolution ; coal and iron, mechanical power, 
mechanization and the corresponding development of 

The Industrial Revolution was certainly in part brought 
about by the scientific mode of thought that had grown from 
the Renaissance intellect. Yet it was not itself a rational 
episode. To me it seems an upsurge of instinctive forces com- 
parable to the barbarian invasions, a surge that destroyed 
eighteen th-century civilization much as the Anglo-Saxons 
destroyed that of Roman Britain. No one planned it, no 
one foresaw more than a tittle of the consequences, very few 
people s.iid that they wanted it, but once begun the impetus 
was irresistible; more and more individual lives became 
helplessly involved, drawn into the vortex. It went forward 
as irresistibly as the evolution of the dinosaurs and in it was 
included the roaring of Tyrannosaurus. It seems indeed that 
Tyrannosaurus and Apollo of the Intellect worked together 
for the Revolution and no combination could be more 
powerful or more dangerous. 

It lent to its instruments an astonishing strength. It 
enabled this chip of the earth’s surface, the small fund of 
human mind, will and energy that it supported, momen- 
tarily to dominate the whole surface of the planet and in so 



doing, like a gigantic, slow explosion, to disperse fragments 
of itself all over that surf ice. It seems possible that had there 
not been this association of coal and iron, growing popula- 
tion and intellectual ferment within the bounds of a temper- 
ate island, the industrialization that in two centuries has 
totally cliangcd human life might never have assumed its 
present forms. 

They were there, and the new way of life developed with 
a speed that is almost unbelievable when it is compared with 
any other experience of human history. In South Wales, 
South Yorkshire and Tyneside, all those regions where past 
events liad left iron and coal in close proximity, there sprang 
up foundries whose crimson glare by night repeats some- 
thing of the volcanic furies of other ages. With them there 
grew to colossal stature the manufictiire of metal goods, a 
manufacture centred on Birmingham in a region that had 
remained longer than almost any other under the peaceful 
covering of tlic forests. On the moist westcni side of the 
Pennines the cotton industry, the first to be wholly depen- 
dent on material produced outside tlic island, grew up in 
obscene relationship with the trade in African slaves. The 
little mills once turned by the Pennine streams, family 
cottage mamificturc, wxrc soon abandoned for the factories 
of Manchester and the neighbouring towns that were grow- 
ing round it. Away on the east of the central mountains, the 
ancient conservatism of the wool trade long resisted the new 
methods; in time, however, first spinning and then weaving 
left the rural valleys and moved to towns like Bradford, 
where the foamy white wool is combed and spun in mills of 
blackened rock, and to Leeds and Huddersfield, where it is 
woven on looms whose descent from those of the Bronze 
Age it is hard to credit. The salt that the evaporation of the 



Triassic lakes and lagoons had left under the Cheshire 
plain became the source of a chemical industry, a thing new 
even among so much innovation. One other industry there 
was which I will mention because it shows liow, exception- 
ally, a few individuals may impose themselves on the land, 
creating something from their own wills that is not dictated 
by circumstances. There was no material reason beyond a 
supply of coal for his furnaces why Josiah Wedgwood and 
his family should have built up the pottery business in 
Staffordshire. Much of his material was dug in Cornwall 
(where the glistening white heaps of kaolin look so alien, 
so improbable among the soft, warmly coloured granite 
moorlands), and his kilns were inconveniently far from the 
coast for the carriage of both the raw clay and the finished 
china. However, Wedgwood lived there and started liis 
work there and so the existence of the Five Towns was 
determined. The craft that even in Britain had a history of 
four and a half millennia now W’^ent into mass production 
largely through the inspiration of one man. It was appro- 
priate that for a time his name was identified with that of the 
clay he manipulated — that ‘common Wedgwood’ should 
become the accepted term for the people’s crockery. 
Because of their liistory, the Potteries have remained more 
patriarchal in organization, more personal in feeling than 
other industries, just as from its nature the work itself 
remains exceptionally individual and unmcchanizcd. I will 
not leave the Potteries without commenting on the extra- 
ordinary forethought that nature seems to me to have shown 
in the formation of kaolin; nearly two hundred million years 
after its deposition, it has proved that this substance can be used 
for making china, for fulling cloth, for keeping the shine from 
women’s faces, for paper-making and as a cure for diarrhoea. 



Transport was of course one of the keys of industrialism. 
Upon it depended a state of affairs in which men no longer 
made things for local use and in which a locahty no longer 
provided the food for its people. By the eighteenth century 
Britain was more closely unified by roads than it had been 
since Roman times and soon tliis was reinforced by the 
canals, a quiet, deliberate form of carriage that came to 
have its owai nomadic population. Then down the ringing 
grooves of change came the railw\ay engine begotten by 
Watt and Stephenson on the iron-and-coal age. Gangs of 
navvies were moved about the coimtry embanking, cutting, 
tunnelling, bridge-building; thousands of tons of metal were 
laid across our meadows, along our valleys, round our coasts. 
The incidental result of tliis activity in stimulating conscious- 
ness in its search for its origins has already been demon- 
strated ill the life of William Smith, die Father of Strati- 

The shift in population W’as the fourth and infinitely the 
greatest that had taken place since Mesolithic times. The 
north of England and southern Wales, formerly rather 
thinly settled, soon had the bulk of a sharply rising popula- 
tion. As mills, factories, foundries and kilns multiplied, the 
little streets of die workers’ houses spread their lines over 
hills that belonged to w ild birds and mountain sheep, and up 
valleys where dierc was nothing busier than a rushing beck. 
Without intention or understanding the greater part of the 
peopleof Britain found themselves living in towns, uprooted, 
and in a strange, unstable environment. The growths of 
brick and stone, later of concrete, whose ragged outer edges 
were always creeping further might coalesce one wdth 
another in urban areas so large that it was difficult for the 
inhabitants to set foot on grass or naked earth. The results 



were grini, but sometimes and particularly in the Pennine 
towns tliey had their own grandeur. Where houses and fac- 
tories are still built from the local rocks and where straight 
streets climb uncomprisingly up hillsides, their roofs step- 
ping up and up against the sky, they have a geometric 
beauty that is harsh but true, while the texture of smoke- 
blackened lime- or sandstone can be curiously soft and rich, 
hkc the wings of some of our sombre night-flying moths. 
Nor do such cities ever quite lose the modelling of their 
natural foundations. On my first visit to the industrial north 
I rode on the top of a tram all the way from Leeds to Batley 
and all the way I rode through urban streets. In the last day- 
light it seemed a melancholy and formless jumble of brick 
and stone, but as darkness closed and a few smoky stars 
soothed and extended my thoughts, the lamps going up in 
innumerable little houses restored the contours of hill and 
dale in shimmering lines of light. 

At least much of tliis nineteenth-century building showed 
the force, the ruthless purpose of its age. The railways, too, 
served to concentrate it and to keep it truly urban. Far more 
pitiful arc the housing estates, the ribbon development and 
all the flimsy scattered new building that our own century 
has added as a result of the internal combustion engine. The 
railways took far too many people to certain places, the 
motor-car takes rather too many people everywhere. The 
dormitory housing estates on the outskirts of cities are a 
limbo created by the combination of meanness with theor- 
etical good intentions. The Httle gardens that man’s incur- 
able love of earth has obliged the council or the speculative 
builder to provide, soon make a ragged wilderness of 
broken fences and sheds. The streets wander aimlessly about, 
representing either simple chaos or the whimsy notions of a 



planning officer. Nothing has grown; nothing is inevitable. 
All over England the houses are the same; for they are built 
of materials that are not local but cheap. A house at Brad- 
ford, a house at Dagenham, will show the same silly stucco, 
the same paltry composition roof. Since 1945 there has been 
an ijiiprovcmcnt, and the sight of these better houses, flats, 
schools, is the most hopeful thing to be seen in Britain, more 
convincing than ten million optimistic words. It is the only 
thing that suggests that new roots are going down and new 
sources of vitality being found. 

Perhaps what is worst in the effects of motor transport and 
of the partial shift of the balance of population back to the 
s<.aith and the southern Midlands, has been the wreckage left 
in its wake. When the uplands so thickly peopled in pre- 
historic times were deserted, the scars that human activity 
had left upon them were so slight, so readily healed, that 
soon they melted back into the scene and enriched it. The 
gentle knolls of chieftains’ graves adorn the horizon, fortress 
walls become grass banks for lovers’ meetings. But once men 
had taken to using chemical change on an immense scale to 
convert the natural substances of the land for their own pur- 
poses, this natural healing could hardly again take place. Iron 
and concrete arc not readily softened. A robin may nest in a 
rusty kettle but that is about the largest scale on w^hich adapta- 
tion is possible. The present derelict parts of industrial Britain 
assume a degraded ugliness never before known. Who can 
ever express the desolation of these forlorn scenes? The 
grey slag heap, the acres of land littered with rusted frag- 
ments of machinery, splintered glass, tin cans, sagging 
festoons of barbed wire; vile buildings, more vile in ruin; 
grimy stretches of cement floors, shapeless heaps of broken 
concrete. The air about them still so foul that nothing more 


An expression of Arl.nuK scenery by Ben Nschi 

IM A 1 1 \1\ 


than a few nettles and tattered thistles will grow there; not 
even rosebay and ragwort can hide them with a brief mid- 
summer promise. This is the worst that has happened to the 

One curious result of the Industrial Revolution can claim 
a special place in this chronicle of the relationship between 
men and their land. For the medieval peasant eight weeks 
in the year were holy days, days when a service in the parish 
church was followed by freedom for rest and celebration. 
Each chosen black- and red-letter day, each Church festival, 
was a part of the wheel of the year and served for rites so 
inucli more ancient than Christianity as to be almost as old 
as the consciousness of man. No countryman could have 
celebrated tlicm away from his own cottage, fields and 
animals, his neighbours <tnd his church, for they were impor- 
tant tlireads in tlie fabric of life where all these things were 
woven together in a single design. 

Now die sharp division of work from play and the 
natural from the supernatural has turned holy days into 
liolidays, and the compelling restlessness and ugliness of 
towns has made holidays an occasion for escape from home. 
So there is this new form of mass migration — no longer to 
pursue game animals or pasture domestic ones, no longer for 
fishing or fowling or the visiting of shrines. Instead a flight 
from a man-made world too hard, dirty and hideous to 
allow its inhabitants to rest, to lie down on the groimd or to 
dance upon it, to turn back to their surroundings for refresh- 
ment. Three hundred years ago how impossible it would 
have seemed that England should be cumbered widi towns 
built as an escape from towns, that half its south and east 
coasts should be encrusted with red bricks, walled behind 
concrete, the sea itself grasped after with iron piers. If the 
o 209 


migrations have largely defeated their purpose by spreading 
more hardness and a new ugliness, at least die resorts arc 
clean, and human beings can find just room enough to 
stretch their bodies on the sand. 

Elsewhere in the country, as has already appeared, crowds 
make for wide views, for wild country, for unusually 
dynamic manifestations of nature or ancient manifestation 
of man, feeding themselves w'hilc they may on something 
which they most urgently need, some nourishment quite 
lacking in urban existence. 

Where did all the men and women come from to fill the 
towns of the Revolution? What was the cause of the endless 
fecundity that lent it impetus? I read that it was due to 
improvements in medicine, to a drop in the death rate. I 
cannot believe it. Instead I believe that just as die audience in 
a theatre can become a single being responding as one 
consciousness to the emotions of the play, so a whole people 
can be caught up and respond to some drama of which it is 
aware in its own life. However, it happened, this prostitution 
of the Great Goddess to die industry that was her bane, 
wombs conceived, death fought a losing battle and the 
towns, the factories and the mines w^ere filled, the railways 
and the ships wx're manned. 

At first the cultivation of the soil almost kept pace with 
this multiplication of mouths. The enclosure of the old open 
fields so long delayed in all the Midland shires w-'as rushed 
ahead ; the hedges imposed their rectangles on strip fields that 
had been cultivated for a thousand years, and the last of the 
peasants, with their poor husbandry and tenacious love of the 
soil, were dissolved, scattering readily among the big farms 
and estates and into the towns. As Artliur Young saw before 
the end of the eighteenth century; ‘A country fellow, one 



hundred miles from London, jumps on a coach box in the 
morning, and for eight or ten sliillings gets to town by 
night . . . and of course ten times the boasts arc sounded in 
the cars of country fools to induce them to quit their healthy 
clean fields for a region of dirt, stink and noise/ Soon a 
country fellow could jump onto a railway train even more 
cheaply and then all was decided. 

Under die big landlords and tenant fiirmcrs the land was 
splendidly cultivated. Country mansions, dignified farms 
w’^ent up, modest farmsteads w^cre enlarged; w'calth coming 
from industry flowed into the land. A few great improvers 
like Thomas Coke of Holkliam transformed English 
agriculture. Through tlieir enterprise simple equipment that 
had been good enough since the Iron Age was thrown aside; 
the weight of sheep was doubled; men had never dreamt 
that cows could yield so much milk. Above all the more 
skilful handling of grass and the cultivation of roots ended 
the great autumn slaughter of livestock that had been a 
necessity since the Stone Age. So great was the increase in 
cultivation that the conscious lovers of a more natural 
countryside could even lament it. Matthew Arnold wrote of 
the change in the Oxford coimtryside that had taken place 
since his youtli: 

I know these slopes; who knows them if not I ? — 

But many a dingle on the loved hillside. 

With thorns once studded, old, white-hlossomed trees. 

Where thick the cowslips grew, and, far descried. 

High tower d the spikes of purple orchises. 

Hath since our day put by 
The coronals of that forgotten time, 

Down each green bank hath gone the ploughhoy s team. 

And only in the hidden brookside gleam 
Primroses, orphans of the flowery prime, 



What would this liigh soul have said could he have seen 
Lord Nuffield following in the ploughboy’s furrow? 

Coke’s column at Holkham stands as a monument to 
these days of high firming. Surrounded by a park that is still 
a proof of the creative force possible in a single man, and 
witli a village that keeps a few lingering memories of 
feudalism, this monument looks from far off like a miUtary 
trophy. But a closer view shows that on the corners where 
one expects cannon, tlicre are sheep, cattle, a plough and a 
seeding machine; the low reliefs on the walls show not 
battle but agricultural scenes, wlhle on the top of the column 
the object that might have been a hero in uniform proves to 
be an imposing sheaf of corn. 

But even the new fecundity of the land could not hope to 
keep pace with that of the new labouring classes. If I have 
arbitrarily chosen the smelting of iron with coke as marking 
the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, I will for the 
purpose of these memoirs choose the time when the country 
ceased to produce enough food nearly to feed its people as 
representing its crisis. From that time Britain forfeited the 
reality of its life as an island, the meaning of the outline that 
its coasts drew upon the sea. From that time it must always 
sell overseas not only to be prosperous but to live; it could 
never retreat into itself to recuperate its powers. The little 
trade in the tilings of luxury and privilege that had begun in 
the Bronze Age had grown to this circulation of the life 
blood through a score of huge ports. 

Yet for the first half of the reign of Victoria, the bringing 
in of foreign grain did not damage native cultivation. The 
two Britains flourished side by side, the swarming cities with 
their new relationships between rich and poor, and a 
sparsely populated but well-farmed countryside with its 



great houses, its country towns and its whole aristocratic 
structure little changed since the eighteenth century. This 
countryside, too, could still inspire and maintain its painters 
— Cornelius Varley, Cox, dc Wint, men of tlic second 
rank, but all still turning out charming water colours 
of rural England and Wales round the middle of the 

In reality dangers were already massing against this pros- 
perous world. There were, of course, the material forces; 
the American pioneers ready to tear the heart out of the 
prairies for quick gold, and with railways and trans- 
atlantic steamships at their command. But even more 
dangerous, perhaps, w^as the weakening of resistance from 
within. The centre of gravity of English life had shifted very 
far towards the cities; the land was defended by no deeply 
rooted peasantry and its cultivation had become a way of 
making money rather than of living. This in turn w’^as no 
more than one aspect of a pervading materialism — let me 
represent it by saying that for men their ancient symbol of 
gold no longer had any hint of the sun or of harvest about 
it, but only of material wealth. Moreover, there reigned in 
many places a faith in the new^ deity of Progress that helped 
to make men blind to all that wms evil, or dangerous, in 

In the end it took no more than a few bad harvests in 
the seventies to open the gates. American grain poured in, 
the future dust bowds w^ere prepared and all the centuries of 
the loving husbandry of the land of Britain betrayed. The 
Great Goddess was seen in her aspect of Cinderella, with 
soot in her hair and dust on her skirt; those who under- 
stood her, however, did not doubt that she would wait for 



It is no part of the intention of this book to pass judge- 
ments. I applauded the appearance of the trilobitcs ; I did not 
deplore the fall of the dinosaurs ; I freely accepted the pro- 
gressive virtues of the placenta and even beyond that 
mammalian tour de force have been almost equally acquiescent. 
This has been due not to a Victorian confidence in pro- 
gress, but to the fact that my intention was no more than to 
celebrate the creation of Britain and in so doing tacitly to 
express a love for the result. If, then, w^ords of judgement 
begin to appear in this chapter, it is only because my 
narrative has now reached a point beyond that of the recol- 
lections of a general consciousness to one where my own 
moment of consciousness is touclied upon. The following 
words, in short, must be read not as an expression of the 
purpose of the book, but simply as inurmurings representa- 
tive of a consciousness subjected to the conditions of the 
year a.d. 1949. 

Seeing the Industrial Revolution as something compar- 
able to a barbarian invasion, I assume that, as after other 
incursions of violent intuitive forces, it must be followed by 
a civilizing period — that energy must now be subject to 
control. I assume, too, that State Socialism has come in 
response to this need, to impose form and order on the wan- 
ing exuberance of revolution. But whereas, for example, 
after die Anglo-Saxon invasions the Christian Church 
succeeded in slowly civilizing each individual and small 
community from within so diat all became part of a 
vigorous, organic, but unselfconscious nation, the present 
State seems in many ways to come closer to the Roman 
pattern. Although the controlling intellects are not those of 
foreigners, and Britain is not a remote province of a great 
empire but very much a nation, yet there is the similarity of 



deliberate intellectual control from a distant centre, the 
imposition of plans alien to the local community. The 
reasons for such control arc totally different. Industrializa- 
tion had so crushed the culture of the individuals composing 
urban masses that die necessary form and order could only 
be imposed. Yet as a result we have an urban culture which 
is in a sense highly complex, yet is not creatively embodied 
in the people themselves. Everything is supplied for them 
from outside, whether by the State, the merchant or the 
purveyor of entertainment. The individual, especially 
the man, docs not possess culture, cannot express it, but 
merely receives a doubtful mixture in a spoon, paid for 
from his purse. The greater the improvement in 
material conditions the more complete this passivity 

It may be that the centralized State represents the logical 
perfection of die growing selfconsciousness of the land 
which I have followed by such steps as Domesday Book and 
Saxton’s maps and the unification of the English language. 
To-day the State has catalogued every man, woman and 
child within our coasts, has mapped every foot of the 
ground. Not only is there a unified language, but one voice 
can unite the consciousness of listeners from end to end and 
side to side of the island ; one film can be seen in a hundred 
towns at once ; identical tins arc opened in every county of 

When underneath all this, culture is no longer sufficiently 
embodied in each individual, the contrasting delights of 
locality, the poetry of a people delicately adjusted to varied 
surroundings, finding their new but always fitting responses, 
must blur into a grey uniformity. Men, and to a lesser 
extent women, are living in tlie topmost attics of the mind 



receiving instruction and information. They are cut off from 
the nourishment of the past both physically and in the 
depths of their own minds where the images of experience 
have formed in darkness since the first stir of life in pre- 
Cambrian seas. So, too, they arc cut off from tliese deep 
sources of creative force, and ugliness pours from them, 
flooding the lowlands, seeping more slowly among the 
moors and mountains. 

It may be the logical development, but like many other 
evolutionary trends already chronicled, this one has gone 
too far. 

If in some ways the State has far exceeded what is desir- 
able in the imposition of conscious order on the chaos of the 
Revolution, in others it has failed utterly in the necessary 
task of civilization. No intellect in command of power has 
stood back far enough to judge the upshot of this blind 
surge of energy, selecting what is hopeful for slow develop- 
ment, condcnuiing what is abominable for gradual elimina- 
tion. Too many of the conditions of life which it imposed 
without their being anyone’s intention or wish, have been 
accepted as inevitable. This is because its basic value has been 
accepted, a materialism which has been exposed in all 
nakedness now that the energy and pioneering enthusiasms 
which inspired it have died away. Once men were con- 
cerned with the quality of hfe as a whole and with their 
relation to the universe; they could assume, for example, 
that the ritual and revelry of the Twelve Days of Christmas 
were of infinitely greater value than the small material gain 
to be won by Avorking for those twelve days. Now a man 
who makes a comparable choice must be called an absentee 
and seen as a traitor. Production and more production of 
goods has become an end for which the land may be turned 



to a wilderness, while individual lives are sacrificed as readily 
as the victims of the Aztec gods. 

There is a new fetish, the Standard of Living, a material 
measure hardly related to the enjoyment of life. Its wor- 
shippers believe that the ‘dirt, stink and noise’ so long ago 
recognized by Young, with the additional massive ugliness 
of the nineteenth century and the shoddiness of the twentieth 
are of no importance when set beside this artificial measure. 
So far have we in Britain been enslaved to this fetish that 
when we go to another country and sec people with light in 
their faces and beauty all round them wc dare not think them 
fortunate if at the same time we sec they have not very much 
money. Yet here in this once most lovely island people will 
spend all that they have been able to save and their few 
most precious days of holiday in flying from tlie dirt, stink, 
noise and ugliness in which they must spend the other fifty 
weeks of the year. Surely it is time to recognize not a 
standard of living but a standard of values, in which beauty, 
comeliness and the possibility of solitude have a high place 
among liuinan needs It must be estabhshed that it is not 
sentimental to value a fine stretch of fanning land more 
highly than the five thousand tons of iron ore wliich can be 
snatched from it, or to believe that life and amenity should 
not be sacrificed to production, to the rapacity of the 
machine. In America vast stretches of countryside have the 
lack of form and sanctity which shows it only to have been 
tilled since the age of exploitation; the American people, the 
most successful materialists in the history of the world, are 
now often to be found speaking with loathing of their own 
life and with nostalgic envy of the happiness of primitive 

If the memories brought together in this book have any 



meaning, men must still need to live in some direct and 
creative relationship witli the land from which they have 
come. They cannot fail to be the poorer for its impoverish- 
ment, to be scarred by its mutilation. The people of diis 
island should put their hearts, their hands, and all the spare 
energy which science has given them into the restoration of 
their country. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 
gangs of navvies moved about like shock troops embanking, 
tunnelling, bridge building. Now such forces could be 

mustered to clear the filthv litter which the Revolution has 


left in its wake. Instead, wealth is spent on patching minds 
and bodies damaged by ‘dirt, stink and noise’, and in 
attempting to educate children who arc condemned to live 
in surroundings which would make die educated pro- 
foundly unhappy. No matter if such an achievement would 
take a few points off the standard of living or an acre or so 
from the desert of industrial leisure. They would not be 

Once materialism had been so far denied, it should be 
possible to go further. What men produced from the stuff 
of their land could slowly be brought into the service of 
good living; satisfaction in the work itself would be recog- 
nized as a positive aim. Ruskin may be repudiated for vain 
fishing in the waters of the past, but he was sane among 
madmen in insisting on the importance of the nature of 
work, of giving an opportunity to individual creativeness. 
Only by accepting this value and by striving to achieve it 
wherever it is suitable can the growth of standardization be 
checked, the possibility for the revival of local culture be 

Such values are too expensive. This country cannot afford 
to give its wealth to enrich the quality of human life. 



Britain must export or die! Is it not far more likely that 
Britain will export and die? 

At present with the excess of human beings created by the 
Revolution and a land, in spite of all contrary pretence, still 
only partially cultivated, perhaps we cannot afford to seek 
these values. But is there any coherent plan to bring them 
within future reach? Controlling intellects could justify their 
power by using all social and scientific means to increase the 
amount of food raised from the land, while at the same time 
encouraging a deliberate reduction of population. The 
reality of this island’s outline, lost only a century ago, would 
be restored when its people could feed themselves if need 
arose. Yet there is no sign that the consciousness armed with 
power wliich is the State is starting on this path to sal- 
vation. When conflict arises agriculture (as well as beauty 
and amenity) is still sacrificed to industry; the State supports 
measures to increase the population. 

A nan can enjoy good relations with other men only if he 
is a whole being, reasonably secure within the boimdaries of 
his personality; so, too, a land is only ready to join a com- 
munity of lands if it has this fundamental self-sufficiency and 
confidence. It is easy for the intellect to conceive higher 
forms of organization for mankind, but the intellect, that 
most distinguished creation of life, is alw^ays far removed 
from the forces which move life itself. I know at least 
that my own love for Britain, for the land and people con- 
tained within these coasts, is only heightened by my 
delight in other lands, each with its own distinctive creation 
and being, each shaped by its outline of coasts, mountains 
and rivers. 

I have allowed my inheritance of consciousness to argue 
and posture. It is — ^it must be, for here it is — the simple 



reaction of a consciousness exposed at a particular point in 
time and space. I display its arguments, its posturings, as 
imprints of a moment of being as specific and as limited 
as the imprint of its body left by a herring in Cretaceous 


Prospect of Britain 

I BEGAN TO PONDER tlicsc rccollcctions lying in dark- 
ness in the empty tray of my garden. Now I have left 
a hollow for an eminence and night for day. On Prim- 
rose Hill I command the licart of London, a grey-blue 
morass of trees and houses, and, thrusting througli it, 
many of the buildings whose creation I have recalled : St, 
Paul’s with its bubble-like dome anchored between four 
towers, tlic Houses of Parliament, the surprising pinnacles of 
the St. Pancras Hotel. I know, too, that among all the 
liuman beings who swarm in these houses and the inter- 
vening grooves that arc London’s streets, there are present 
the king and queen of this island — a king and queen who 
may now be the ideal for bourgeois domesticity and also 
hard-w'orked officials, but who must always remain the 
symbol for the unity of a people and its land — and thcrc' 
fore the symbolic centre of my own theme. 

Close at hand is the lively, variegated clutter of the allot- 
ments where the Boroughs of St. Pancras and Hampstead 
rent small patches of poor soil to their citizens. The ruimer 
beans still make luxuriant green tents, but the cabbages are 
weary, past their prime. Then lower down and further off 
is the artificial geology of the Mappin Terraces, proclaim- 
ing that strange institution the Zoological Gardens. Wild- 
ness of a kind that we have banished from our own country- 
side we gather from all over the globe and concentrate 
on these few acres in Regent’s Park. Here, staring at the 
ancient perfection of wild creatures, wc experience deep 



recognitions penetrating very far below die surface of 

To my right, the line of low liills and terraces that make 
the south bank of the Thames valley lead the eye eastward 
towards the estuary, and so carry the imagination onwards 
again to capture a sense of the wdiole outline of die island 
that I have now brought back to this moment of time. Sit- 
ting here on my little hill, my lump of London Clay, I can 
summon piecemeal before my inner eye die Britain amassed, 
shvipcd and peopled during the course of these memoirs. A 
creation ranging in age from that scarlet beanflower in the 
allotment, that plump baby on the path, to the gneisses of 
the Outer Hebrides. For my own pleasure I shall rehearse 
before me scenes from the regions of this country wliich 
have been built up one after another and have together 
achieved this present moment. I shall see what they look like 
in the delicate balance of all that has happened. In doing so 
I shall start with the youngest, and in starting with the 
youngest it is plain that I should start witli cities, the cities 
with which I have just ended. Cities represent the latest 
deposits in Britain formed not as the quiet outcome of 
denudation, or the violence of volcanic eruption, not as 
with coralline and other organic rocks as a direct result 
of physical existence, but as the conscious activity of a 
species w^hich has robbed a thousand strata to make them. 
Yet if I wxrc to attempt to examine cities in this way I should 
have to include a country town that is an organic part of the 
life of the countryside, a cathedral city, an industrial city, a 
port; then again I should have to look at a northern stone- 
built industrial city climbing on its hills as well as its brick 
counterpart sprawling on the Midland plain; a port in a 
recent estuary and another in an ancient rocky coast. There 



would be no end. Instead I will take one sample — I will look 
for a moment at my own street, the street down there at the 
foot of the hill. It is widish and greyish, with terraces of 
houses built about the middle of the nineteenth century; the 
earlier ones a heavy, partly stuccoed post-Gcorgian, the 
later paying tribute to the Gothic revival in cast-iron columns 
and capitals and the approach to dog’s tooth displayed on the 
bow windows. Against the hill are detached houses with gar- 
dens and in these are preserved the last mementoes of the 
days a century ago when this was a region of gardens and 
meadows lying round Chalk Farm. There are poplar and 
acacia and one magnificent black pear tree whose springtime 
fountain of blossom seems every year to cry out against its 
present confinement. Half-way along the road is a lofty pedi- 
mented building in a subdued Roman style, a factory which 
luitil recently made pianos (those tinkling, not very good 
pianos that must have been so much a part of the late Victor- 
ian and Edwardian scene, equally in parlours and in pubs). 
Now it is given over to electric light bulbs. The Fitzroy Road 
bricks came, I guess, from the Midlands, the shiny slates from 
North Wales, the cast iron for our Gothic colunms and the 
heavy area railings from goodness knows where in the iron- 
coal country. The York Stone paving, woni by footsteps 
into attractive miniature landscapes, survives in the side 
streets but has recently been replaced in Fitzroy Road itself 
by lifeless cement slabs. The old kerbstones, however, still 
remain ; most of them a pink granite, its crystalline structure 
showing clearly on surfaces smoothed by the passage of feet 
and the bumping up and down of perambulators. 

The inhabitants come from as many quarters as the 
materials and they keep the mark of locality in the voices 
that float or ricochet between the houses. I have not detected 



the survival of any corresponding local habit or skill save in 
the north-country ruddle that is used on a few door steps. 
Not many people know one another intimately, but they 
know much of one another. It takes the comings and goings 
of a funeral fully to unite us. There is one immortal. W. B. 
Yeats as a small boy lived for a few years at Number 23, he 
who wrote tliat in Ireland they were all ‘like coral insects, 
with some idea in our heads of tlie ultimate island’. He did 
not like and may have detested Fitzroy Road, but a little 
of it was in him and I claim that a breath of his permeates the 
street. He still might find it pleasant to wander through it in 
the evening when die old-fishioncd lamps arc burning with 
a cheerful yellow light, and the rows of cliimney pots, squat 
and tall, vaned, cowled or naked, stand against a clear green 
sky, a ragged but friendly army mounting guard over our 

This stray sample, then, must represent all those dense 
urban deposits tlirown up by the tremendous outbursts of 
human energy during the last few centuries. Perhaps it is 
enough, for these cities where men try to live in a world of 
their own making, remote from the substance and rhythms 
of the land, have no more detailed contribution to make to 
the development of my theme. I can now leave them, and I 
do not conceal my delight in leaving them, for some part of 
East Anglia, that countryside so largely founded on glacial 
drifts almost as young as man. It is a countryside owing 
something of its present character to Constable who saw it 
with such a brilliant eye that now his vision affects the whole 

The track leading to the farm is furrowed by two deep 
grooves cut by iron-shod cart wheels in the buttery mud of 
early spring and now so hard that the harvest wagons must 



follow them as though they ran on steel rails. On the right 
there is a hedge banked with nettles where the deserted nests 
of whitethroats are still hanging. Above the hedge, a little 
raffish with wisps of hay plucked from passing loads, are elm 
trees that make tremendous verticals against the gentle 
undulations of hedge and field. Every leaf gleams dully in 
the summer sun, and yet all arc merged in tlie mass of heavy 
foliage, in the full rounded heads tliat repeat in sombre green 
tiie dazzling forms of the cumulus clouds hanging almost 
motionless above them. 

Tlie square red-brick farmhouse, built in tlie high farming 
days of the eighteenth century, would in isolation be too 
uncompromising, too austere, but it is softened by an apron 
of flower garden and by a huge pear tree that is trained up 
the wall like a tree of Jesse and lifts its clusters of bronzed 
fruit even as far as the eaves. The byres and barns have 
grown round it with the instinctive perfection of the build- 
ings that men raise for their own use. Some arc of flint; one, 
(T tarred wcatlicr-boarding, offers the deepest and richest 
tone in the wlic»le landscape. Dominating them all, larger in 
bulk tlian the firmliouse itself, is the great barn, built to 
store the wealth of five hundred acres of fine corn land. Its 
roof is magnificent. The long soft curves of the crest follow 
tliosc of the timber within, and where at each gable it rises 
to a little peak it is repeating East Anglia’s faint memory of 
tlie dragon-headed finials of the Viking settlers. The form is 
lo\ ely, blit it is tlie colour that is triumphant. If the elms 
hold the dro wsiness of August, here is tlie complementary 
blare. From end to end the rose-pink tiles arc overgrown 
with a lichen whose ycllow% seen against that cloud-hung 
sky, makes a sliivcr run down my spine. This is a combina- 
tion of man and nature impossible in Fitzroy Road. Man 

22 S 



builds, and quickly, helped by the wind, by birds, the 
lichen gives its blessing to his work, spreading across it ‘plate 
on plate’, just as the martins come and with globule on 
globule of mud fit their plump nests below the eaves. 
Perhaps lichen signifies decay, but is decay less blessed, less 
valuable than youth? 

I have not yet looked at the open left-hand side of the 
track, and here lies the inspiration of all the rest. The muddy, 
chalk-mixed silts spread by the melting ice, enriched bv 
the decay of uncounted forest autumns, have made unrivalled 
wheat-lands. Since tliey were cleared of trees by generations 
of British, Anglo-Saxon and Englisli, farmers too wise to 
slight the Great Goddess have guarded the fertility of these 
fields. Now in the August hush and sun the dense army of 
the wheat stands waiting for the harvest. Tliis vision is less 
that of Constable than of Palmer who has heightened our 
sense of tliis massive ripeness. The countless straight stems 
make a golden twilight where a few poppies burn; the 
countless tawny cars are so evenly, so closely ranged that it 
seems the Great Goddess herself might walk across them to 
attend her altars. 

Now, quickly, I turn to the chalk country with a speed 
allowing a full realization of tlic dificrence of atmosphere, of 
light and colour. There arc the qualities which Paul Nash 
achieved with his cunning exposure of the white surfice of 
his paper. A pallor natural to the chalk that seems also to 
penetrate the air, to reflect from all colours. Among the 
swelling summits I can look along a recession of headlands, 
point beyond point, until they merge into one unbr(du'ii 
line. Several carry small beech clumps planted during tliat 
short period when landowners played wdth the countryside 
to satisfy aesthetic fasliion. Each clump has a domed form 



liarnionizing perfectly with those of the lulls; the outer trees 
are low, stunted by the winds that shoot up the hollow 
combes and over the plateaux, wliile the innermost grow 
tall in pursuit of the light. Just now tlic lean, cruel buds have 
recently broken and the twigs arc sliot with the brilliant 
green of young leaves that arc still crumpled like the wings 
of a newly emerged butterfly. In the sheltered heart of the 
clumps last year’s foliage still clings to the lower branches, 
tatters of orange that mutter with the passage of the wind, 
the talk of old women warning the green generation of 
what they, too, must come to when the sap runs back. 

The turf is of finely matted fescue grass with, blades as 
narrow as pine needles and crisp to the touch. Between the 
Idades twine many little plants that never cliokc the grass, 
yet arc never themselves expelled; wild thyme, harebell, 
milkw'ort, each to be distijiguished by the intimate detail of 
leaf, stem and growth. Of them all only the wild violets 
have as yet put out a few tentative blossoms to try the spring. 

Now^licrc else in Britain can tlicrc be curves like those of 
the chalk downs; huge quantities of ciialk Jiavc been 
denuded to shape tliesc muscular hills, the smooth hollow’'s 
of the combes. It is ironical tliat tliis easy dissolution should 
l).avc given the chalk hills such strength and tensity; it 
w ould seem that instead of having been wx>rn away particle 
after particle by water and wind some sculptor had suc- 
ceeded in achieving that sense of force thrusting from 
within, of tautness of surface for which Henry Moore 
battles with his hard Liassic stones. 

Here among tlic summits one is reminded more of the 
men and business of the past than of the present. The turf- 
bound clialk preserves every considerable mark made by the 
Stone and Iron Age peoples who lived up here islanded 



among forests. The even contours of the next headland are 
nicked by the banks and ditches of a Celtic fort, while much 
closer at hand there is a mound which covered a Bronze Age 
chieftain for over three thousand years before a Victorian 
successor, an luiskilled pioneer of consciousness, pulled out 
his bones, pots and weapons. On more distant slopes the low 
spring sun shows the outline of the Celtic fields as a faint 
reticulation, while on another are the earliest of all industrial 
scars, the dents and hummocks of long-deserted flint iiiincs. 

Yes, these uplands belong to memory, and these shadow y 
hieroglyphs record the fluidity oi human life, the speed wnrh 
W'hich it may flow in blind weaves from region to region. 
But it is only the summits that arc deserted, present-day life 
pushes up towards them. In East Anglia, once tlic Resistance 
of the forests had been broken, men had it all their own way 
w’ith the land. There it was, a passive possession, wide 
stretches of rich soil whose gentle rise and fill did no more 
than undulate the lines of the hedges. Here, though tlic 
resistance of the land is still slight, it is enough to defend 
these tops against human settlement. From the wide, shallow 
trough of the valley the hcdgeless fields lap up against the 
turf, the highest arc almost white and the growtli of tlic 
young oats is meagre, sometimes failing altogether on 
patches of flint and broken chalk. Fartlicr diawn the earth 
mellows and bctwx'cii the rectangles of light brown, as 
softly shaded as the side of an antelope, there arc a few field s 
already green with spring corn. About half-way dowm to 
the valley bottom is a sudden line of firms and hamlets 
standing among trees; so closely do they follow a single 
contour tliat they look as though they were standing along 
the edge of a lake. Ti ns is the line at which the springs break 
out from below the chalk. 



Where woods of ash, and beech. 

And partial copses, fringe the green hill foot . . . 

There wanders by a little nameless stream 

That from the hill wells forth, bright now and clear. 

Or after rain with chalky mixture grey. 

But still refreshing in its shallow course 
The cottage garden. 

Most of the smaller houses are built out of their surround- 
ings — chalk rammed on a timber frame, raised on a rough 
stone or brick footing and deeply thatched. Some instead of 
chalk daub show skilfully cut blocks of chalk. There is a 
saying in this country, ‘Give chalk a good hat and shoes and 
it will serve you well’. 

Immediately below I can look down onto a thatched roof 
with eaves so wide that I can hardly see the low walls, but 
can distill guisli every detail of the mossy thatch like a 
bulging old stTa quilted in green velvet. 

I listen to the larks as they make their brief excursions to 
die sky; not far up the valley a tractor-drawn plough, wnth 
a plume of gulls in its waike, is making a darker patch in the 
wide expanse of pale browns and greens. 

Behold behind it as the vale recedes 
And falls into a flat the eye scarce sees, 

A family of hills, some near, sonic far. 

Withdrawing till their faint expiring tops 
Are almost lost and melted into air. 

It is somewhere there that the downs meet the sea and add 
their magnificent w^hite cliffs to the outline of England. 

I try to summon to my inner eye some prospect of the 
Cotswolds, for nowhere in England have men made a 
sw eeter use of the land than there where the fleece of sheep 
helped to raise the honey-coloured limestone into towns, 
villages and great houses; into superb churches wdth walls 



little more than a framework for the glowing display of 

That proud scarp of the Cotswolds above the flat Severn 
valley comes before me with its hill forts, chambered tombs 
of the Stone Age and the lofty maypole on Coopers Hill 
where the boys chase roiling cheeses into the valley. I see, 
too, the pear orchards toaming up the foot of the scarp as 
though the green sea of the valley was breaking in waves on 
the hills. Then the narrow defile of the Stroud valley in- 
trudes itself, with its terraces of neat stone houses climbing 
so steeply that the chimneys of one arc level with the door 
steps of the next above, a piece of early rural industrializa- 
tion where the eighteenth-century wool-weaving fictorics 
look like country mansions. Then the round stone-built 
columbarium at Upper Slaughter with its conical roof; 
inside range upon range of openings filled with cooing 
doves, white wings beating in the confined space and tlic 
birds spilling through die opening at the top of the cone to 
be seen for a moment floating against the summer sky before 
dicy settle on the grey gable of the manor house. 

Yet it is only these odd and particular scenes that present 
themselves from this exquisite region — which is one tlnit, 
extraordinarily enough, has produced no painter or writer 
able to impose his vision upon it. When I look for a region 
built during this middle distance of time whicli 1 have now 
reached, it is the Yorkshire dales that appear in their entirety. 
Indeed, it is suitable tlicy should do so, for there is something 
in the life of these limestone valleys of the eastern Pcnnincs 
that winds into the licart of my theme. Here I am already 
in the true highland country though not yet near its ancient 
foundations. The Cotswolds arc a stone countryside, but no 
more than the chalk has it the character of the highlands, it 



is a part of die English lowlands and has their virtues of 
tolerance and ease and dieir vices of too much tolerance and 
too much case. Then, again, although the liarmony that men 
have sounded there is one of the most delightful in the world, 
it is already some way out of life, a National Reserve for the 
charm of old England. It is, too, a country of large farms 
and estates where the resistance ofJcTcd by nature to com- 
plete domination by man is still too sliglit to be stimulating. 

In the West Riding dales none of these conditions pre- 
vails. It is true highland with licathcr moors, rushing, peaty 
streams and swift rivers and their accompanying curlew, 
grouse, dippers, trout and salmon. It has few great houses, 
having long been the property of tough smallholders; the 
resistance of nature is strong, there is much to fight against 
but not too much; there is no question of a desperate 
struggle to make two blades of grass grow on bare rock. 
Because of these qualities, no other part of Britain to my 
mind so nearly conveys the emotion one experiences in 
some of the peasant countries of Europe — in northern Italy, 
for example, W'hcre the artificial terraces step up and up 
towards rocky hill-tops until the topmost may show no 
more than one vine or enough grain to make two loaves. 
It is an emotion drawn from a sense that there is not a single 
rocky outcrop or the smallest pocket of earth that has not 
been instinctively assessed, fully exploited in the effort to 
wring fertility from the land. I am not saying that this is 
altogether desirable, but only that it stirs the heart. The 
Yorkshire dales share sometliiiig of this appeal, but it is 
combined with qualities that are bolder, more free and 
heroic, in keeping with a country still largely peopled by the 
descendants of Vikings. It shows itself in the determination, 
so much greater than tlie pale encroachments of the chalk, 



with which the highest pastures of the fertile valleys bite into 
the dark moorland tops. Wherever soil covers the rock a 
little liighcr than usual a wall encloses it and all on the 
human side is kept green, defended against the rough 
assaults of the heather. It manifests itself too, in the hives for 
honey bees kept on the remotest parts of the moors. Often 
a row of these gleaming white mansions may be seen in one 
of the peaty hollows where a slip of turf on rock has left 
precipitous black walls. 

There is no southern ease about the dales, nor is there any 
artificiality or antiquarianisrii in tlicir life, they are too 
prosperous, too close to stubborn industrial towns. 

While the West Riding has produced no great nature 
landscape painter, it was the dales tliat inspired tlie East 
Anglian, John Sell Cotman, to his first important work. 1 
do not think that Cotman has had the power to change our 
vision, but he has perfectly expressed certain qualities of tlie 
dales. Greta Bridge itself represents to perfection all the grey 
stone bridges that span tlic dale rivers — the Ure, the Swale, 
the Nidder, Skirhire, and the rest — the bridges that must 
hump more and more steeply as the river dwindles tow\ards 
the valley head. But Cotman ca>u]d never acliicvc for the 
valleys wliat Emily Bronte has done lor the moors. She 
listened to the laments of the curlew, to the harsh grouse 
and 'the moorl.irk in the air\ theirs was her world, not that 
of the sleek dipj)cr and salmon. 

There is a spot, 'mid harreti bills, 

Where winter howls, and drivinp^ rain; 

But, if the dreary tempest chills, 

There is a lioht that warms aqain. 

'The mute bird sittinq on the stone. 

The dank moss dripping from the wall, 

The thorn-trees gaunt, the walls o' ergrown, 

I kwe them — how I love them all! 



A little and a lone green lane 
That opened on a common wide; 

A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain 
Of mountains circling every side. 

A heaven so clear, an earth so calm. 

So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air; 

And, deepening still the dreamlike charm. 

Wild tnoor-shcep feeding everywhere. 

That tvas the scene, I knew it well; 

I knew the turfy pathway's sweep. 

That, winding o'er each billowy swell 
Marked out the track of wandering sheep. 

Wutheriiig Heights is an embodiment of the Yorkshire 
moors; thinking of it I sec it stained with just that boding 
colour of heather and peat in early winter before the snow 
has fallen. 

Between Cotinan and Emily Bronte, I cannot find that 
any artist has either re-created or fully expreSvSed the country 
that is to me the purest essence of the dales. I mean that kind 
of landscape which is not found citlicr in the lower reaches 
of the rivers nor on the wild uplands, but in the intermediate 
territory wdicrc die valley is narrowing so much tliat no 
more than one field on either side of the river is flat; where 
road, river, and perhaps raiKvay, must run close together. 
Here, too, the valley sides arc often stepped by natural 
terraces and of tlicsc the highest may break through the 
grass in naked limestone cliffs and crags. 

Such is the landscape I see w hen I tliink of the dales. This 
stony road has growai from ‘the little and the lone green 
lane’ that leads down from the moor. The late sunlight is 
flowing dowm the valley and seems at once to magnify and 
mellow every feature of the scene. Most surely of all it 
distinguishes the stone field walls that run across the valley, 
dipping down in full curves from cliff to bottom, inter- 



rupted by the tree-grown meander of the river, then rising 
again in equal curves to meet the opposite chlF. The long 
green lining of the dale is striped by these transverse bars, 
part stone, part softer shadow. The walls, built by hands with 
millions of fragments from the limestone hills, seem a calm 
assertion of the successful labour of generations, of tlie 
conquest of this hard Pennine realm. Every stone, with its 
own immense history held in it, has been handled, judged, 
given its chitik to fill in a plan seen not on paper but freely in 
the builder’s mind. Scattered among the fields, throwing 
angular shadows, are die neat stone sheds whicli the dales- 
men build far above their firms, and where tlicy keep 
some hay and milk their cows in a richly-smelling gloom. 
At this moment, with iron-shod boors ringing on the stony 
track, fresh from milking a man passes with a zinc budget 
strapped to his back. I can hear the milk slapping against 
the sides of the can. Following him down with my eyes 1 
see that the valley bottom is filling with shadows, the wall 
bars are growing faint and the clustered village is steeped for 
a moment in a paradisaical rose light before that, too, turns 
grey, a fiding ash. I look straight at the sun that is causing 
this havoc, sec it as a bulging, sagging mass on the lip of the 
pass, then it is gone, leaving only a dancing green spot on my 
inner eye, 

I am pressing deeper towards the foundations of Britain, 
but before I come to tliosc most ancient mountain fastnesses, 
I will pause for a moment at the strange region of Charn- 
wood Forest that has been mentioned in earlier chapters. 
Leave industrial Leicester, where the wretched little exposure 
of the Roman city is fenced off near the railway station, 
escape painfully from the clinging red tentacles of the 
suburban ribbon development, and suddenly find in the air 



a faint but palpable tang of wildness. Banks of bracken arc 
beginning, there is some shaky drystone walling between 
the fields, and the cottages by the roadside arc no longer of 
brick but show a most curious, indeed a unique, colour and 
texture. Their walls are built of sharp angular fragments of a 
rock, far too hard for dressing, that liavc been sunk in thick 
beds of mortar. This rock, formed before the beginning of 
life, shows merging bands of dull purple and deep green. 
I follow a mounting path first tlirough a small birch wood, 
then through bracken, and in a few hundred yards am out 
on a miniature upland plateau where the purple and green 
rocks stick harshly, brutally, through the ground as bones 
will tear through the flesh of a broken thigh. Standing on a 
lower outcrop I can see the loftiest of them, glistening with 
still harder veins of white quartz, biting directly onto the 
rolling pastoral landscape with its comfortable hedges, its 
abundant farms and villages. 

Now at last sitting here on Primrose Hill among eight 
million urban beings, I will summon for a last review those 
mountain regions where even now the works of men are 
trivial in the face of the colossal assertions of nature, where 
instead of driving tractors over a thousand acres farmers are 
grateful to hold a fringe of fields round the foothills and to 
run their sheep among the heather. 

Perhaps it would be most consistent with my purpose if I 
chose the northern highlands or the western isles, for their 
country is the most ancient and there men live in ways not 
fiir removed from those of the preliistoric peoples whose 
tombs survive all round them. 

Yet it seems that I was not free to make this choice. 
Instead, here is a craggy peak and the rocks on which I 
crouch have the brittle crystallinity of what was once boil- 



iiig lava. The clouds arc all round me crowding their damp 
breath into my face, trailing ragged fingers across my feet. 
Occasionally there is a rent through which I can see a 
further prospect of rocks, but it closes again and leaves this 
opacity, this luminous but impenetrable envelope of grey- 
ness. It smothers not only all observation but all thought; I 
am conscious of nothing but consciousness, held here on the 
rock and engulfed by chaos. It is a moment of the deepest 
isolation and loneliness and yet also of a simple unity. 
Chaos pales, begins to glare against the eyes as though this 
were a tliird-degree examination of die possessor of con- 
sciousness — but instead form is returning, I can see a rocky 
path, a mountain shoulder littered with boulders; pine tree 
tops begin to fill the void below me with their green tents. 
The last clammy fingers of the clouds drag ovxr the Lang- 
dale Pykes and are gone on the wind. I am looking out over 
a vast configuration of mountain peaks, s^nne clear, some 
still hung with cloud. Among them are gleams of water, 
hhits and promises of the cataracts and the lakes caught up 
in 'the wild catastrophe of the breaking mountains’. The 
narrow valley at the foot of the Pykes has its road, its few 
meadows, and I know that since the first Norsemen fought 
their way between the rocks and the pine forests men have 
held their plots wherever the moimtains and the lakes left 
them room. Among them 

There was a boy; ye knew him ioell, ye cliffs 

Atid islands of PVituvidcr. 

Wordsworth’s formulated philosophy is not mine, but there 
w'as much in the experience leading to that philosophy, in 
a mind cleaving so closely to its surroundings, that relates 
him more closely than any other poet to my theme. 



. . . the tnsihle scene 
Would enter unawares into his mind. 

With all its solemn imagery, its rocks. 

Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received 
Into the bosom of the steady lake. 

Among the great company of poets physically and 
imaginatively nourished by our land there are a few who 
stand closer than the rest to their own countryside. Their 
poetry, the images rising from the darkness of unconscious 
memory, seem to be as much a part of the growth of that 
countryside as the distinctive plants and animals which it 
more directly supports. Hardy’s j>ocms grew from the 
Wessex downlands, Clare’s from the tiny stretch of the 
Midlands in which alone he felt at home; Crabbe’s are 
the bitter fruit of the Norfolk coast: 

Ikcrc poppies, noddinq, mock the hope of toil, 

There the blue bugloss paints the sterile soil. 

Because of his gigantic stature as a poet and because he \vas 
so utterly possessed by a feeling of man’s dependence on 
nature, it is Wordsworth wdiose w'ork is most permeated by 
his chosen country. He describes how" in the full lust of his 

. the sonndinq cataract 
Haunted we like a passion, the tall rock: 

The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood. 

Their colours and their forms, were then to me 
An appetite; a jecling and a love. . . 

Yet the passion has proved mutual; he in his turn has per- 
meated Cumberland. So much did he intertwine himself 
wnth the mountains that later poets w'ritc of Wordsworth 
as part of the landscape. One sees him as an old man who 
came to know how 



. . . hateath the mutatiott of year and season 
Flood and drought, frost and fire and thunder, 

The Jrothy blossom of the rowan and the reddening of the berries. 
The silt, the sand, the slagbanks and the shingle. 

And the wild catastrophe of the breaking mountains. 

There stands the base and root oj the living rock. 

Thirty thousand jeet of solid Cumberland. 

Wliilc anotlicr identifies him more simply: 

No room for mourning: lie's gone out 
Into the noisy glen, or stands between the stones 
Of the gaunt ridge, or youll hear his shout 
Rolling among the screes, he being a hoy again. 

He'll never fail nor die 

And if they laid his bones 

In the wet vaults or iron sarcophagi 

OJ Janie, he\l rise at the first summer rain 

And stride across the hills to seek 

His rest among the broken lands and clouds. 

He was a stormy day, a granite peak 
Spearing the sky; and look, about its base 
Words flower like crocuses in the hatiging tvoods. 

Blank though the dalehead and the bony face. 

I have brought together in consciousness a few of tlie 
pieces that make this island ot Britain, pieces whose sliaping 
in time by geological process, by organic life, by human 
activity and imagination I have already described. I liave 
ended with those mountains tliat can symbolize the founda- 
tions both of our consciousness and of this land. I must draw 
round it tlic containing coasts — the curved sandy bays, 
shingle spits and desolate salt marshes, the infinite variety of 
the rocky coasts broken by savage inlets and by peaceful 
coves, adorned with caves, arches, islets and towering stacks 
and visited by the grey, white and black birds of the sea. 

I will close it with the long line of the chalk cliffs. Into them 
I must set esplanades and bungalows, hotels and boarding- 



houses; fishing towns and villages; docks, jetties and piers; 
estuaries thronged with pleasure craft, and crowded ports, 
and round them all the movements of the small craft, tlie 
coming and going of great ships. So I have tried to celebrate 
the creation of this land and our consciousness of it and 
there is no more to be done except to express thankfulness 
for ‘An appetite; a feeling and a love . . 

It was spring when I began to write and now September 
lias put cool fingers and a few leaves into the air. While I 
have written, the sea has swallowed a gobbet of land in one 
place, released a few square yards in another; there have 
been losses and gains in the flow of consciousness. Again I 
see die present moment as a rose or a cup held up on the 
stem of all that is past. Or is it perhaps after all that spiral 
shell in which I once lieard the call of the plover; into which 
1 can look to sec all things taking shape and where the 
bottom-most point is one widi tliis last convolution? 




AGE IN MILLIONS (Maximum thicknesses in feet) OF 




a 1,000 ft. 


15,000 fi. 


a 3, 000 ft. 


64,000 ft. 


a a, 000 ft. 


25.000 ft. 


18.000 ft. 


i 40,000 ft. 


37,000 It. 


2«0,000 ft. 


40,ooo ft. 


40,000 ft. 


unknown tiiu.kncss 

f Quaternary (Pleistocene and Holocene) 4,000 Jeet, 


75-45 Million Years Ago 


ABINGTON, cottafi^es at, 138 
ADONIS, Garden of, 83 

ALABASTER, uscd for sculpturc, I20; 
Keuper, 120 

ALBA, name for Scotland, 163 
ALBION, 9, 79; name for Britain, 

163, 175 


ALPS, The 85; formation of 23, 85; 

mountaineering in, 23 
AMERICA, 80, 84; reptiles in, 78; 
grain, 213; exploitation of 
land in, 217 
AMMONITES, 1 9, 28, 1 67 
ANGLES, invasion of, 183 

ANGLO-SAXON, period, 183 -9 

ANNE, QUEEN, rcign of, I97 

ANNTNG, MARY, 59, 73-4, IO4, 110 

ANSES, gods, 161 



APES, 92 





ARRAN, Goatfell, 86 




ATLANTIS, 56, 65, 79 -80 

AVEBURY, 162, 164, 174; sarsens 
for buildings, 132 
AXES, stone and flint, 157 

BACKBON"E, The 54 
BARNWELL, 1 26; Abbey, Stone for, 

BASALT, 16, 21 


BATH STONE, 72, 76, I27; for 

building, 127-30 
BELEMNirEH, 1 9 
BEi-GAi:, 'Fhe, I 73“4 

BIRDS, 67; earliest, 77; and poets, 8 
BIRMINGHAM, 196, 204; giiol, Stone 
for, 1 1 7 

BLACK PASTURE, quaiTieS tit, I16 
BODMIN MOOR, 21, 65 
BRADFORD, 204; town hall, Stone 
for, 117; waterworks, stone for, 

BRICK, for building, 138 
BRITAIN, growing sclf-conscious- 
ness of: through religious uni- 
formity, 164; in mind of Bronze 
merchants, 165-6; in Belgic 
kingdoms, 173; as Roman Pro- 
vince, 177; through Domesday 
Book, 189; through Saxton’s 
Maps, 194 

Bntafinia, Camden’s, 194 
BRITISH MUSEUM, 1 75; stonc for, 130 
BRITONS, survival of, in west and 
north, 188 

BRONZE AGE, 52, 162-8; Cremation 
in, 163 

BUDE, 65 


CAEN Stone, 107 



CALEDONIAN, rocks, 50-~i; canal, 5(S; 
mountains, 57 

CAMBRIAN, period, 32, 44-5, 47-9; 
rocks. 46, 1 1 1 ; rocks, for building, 

CAMBRIDGE, Stone for buildings in, 
126-7, 130; Castle Hill 192 

ing materials in, 134 

CAMULODU NGM , 1 7 2-4 
CAMULOS, Celtic war god, 172 


CARBONIFEROUS period, 33, 62; 

forests, 63 
CARSTONE, 13 I, 135 
CASSITEUIDES, and tin, 175 
CAVES, as dwellings, 148 
CELTS, invasions of, 168; settled 
farming of, 168; language of, 

CEMENT, 72, 140 

CHALK, 18-19, 79 , 80-1; Red, 80; 
for building, 13 1; scene in down- 
land, 226" 9 

CHARNWOOD FOHFu^T, 43, 6 q, 8o; 

description of, 234-5 
CHEVIOTS, The, 31, 97 
CHRISTIANITY, 40, 214; as Unifying 
force, 196 


CLAY, 18, 19; Kimmeridge, 74; 

Oxford, 74 

CLUNCH, for building, 134 
COAL, 62-3, 1 95 "-6, 199, 202 
COAST, as an outline, 9, 212, 219, 
238; Its products, 143 
COB, for building, 136 
COBBLE, for building, 135; for 
pavements, 136 

COKE, THOMAS, 211-12 
COLOUR, 44, 83, 92; in birds, 77 
CONSCIOUSNESS, I I, 27, 34-4 1, 92-3, 
141, 14S, 166, 197, 201, 215, 
219-20, 239 * 

CONIFERS, 6r, 76, 91 

CONSTABLE, JOHN, 224, 226; paint- 
ing of Stonehenge, 133 
cooper’s hill, cheese rolling, 230 

COPPER, 165, 169 
CORAL RAO, for building, 124 
CORNWALL, 23, 58, 65, 87 
bridge, stone for, 126 
COTSWOLD HILI-S, 71, 95; building 
in, 122; scenery and buildings 
in, 229-30 
COW'S, earliest, 90 
cox, DAVID, 213 
CRAB BE, GEORGE, 1 44, 1 97 , 237 
CRABS, 75 

CRAG, Red, 89; Coralline, 89 
CRETACEOUS, period, 28, 33, 79-80; 
period, its influences on human 
settlement, 155; rocks for build- 
ing, J31 

CRiNOiDS, or sca-lilics, 52, 75 
Cl MBERLAND, 55, 66, 69 
CUN OBELI N, 17 3 
CW’MS, 95 
CYCADS, 76-7 

DANES, settlement of, 189 
DARBYS of Shropshire, The, and 
iron-smelting, 202 
DARTMOOR, 21, 65, 87 
DE LA BECHE, 74, 1 I9 
DEE, river, 94 
DEER, 91 

DENUDATION, 17-18, 22 
DERJ-LICTION, industrial, 208 
DERWENT, river, 94 
DEVON, 23, 33, 58, 65-6, 84 
DEVONIAN PERIOD, 54, 57, 60-T 



DINOSAliR, 78, 82 

DOLOMITE, see Limeslonc, Maj>:ne- 
siiin • 

DOWNS, North, 31, 85, 87; South, 
31, 85; hint mines, on, 157; 
Epsom, 87 
Dm. IDS, 164 
DYING GOD, 'J‘he, 83 

EARTH, 12; formation of, 11, 15 
}:ast anoita, 'J'crtiary formations 
in, 89; scene in, 224 


EDINRUHOH, CilStle, 86, 96; ilijs'h- 
landers in, 172 
i-nniTEENrH century, 197; rela- 
tionship of men and land in the, 

ELIOT, T. S. I l6 
ELY ('ATfIKDRAL, Stonc for, lOj 
1 :.NN 1 SKII..LEN, EARL OI-, 74 
EROS, as a creative force, 83, 92 
evston station, London, stone 
for, 1 17 
Evoia xioN, 29 


EARI.EY, ROBERT, 128 , 1 34 
EAR.MiNO, earliest, 155; settled, 168, 
172; and Industrial Kevolution, 
21 1 13 

FEAR, dawn of, 60 

I inchley road, London, 95 


FIHF. OF LONDON, 'rhc, 129 
FISHES, 33, 59 '6o, 71; effect on 
building stone, 113 

FIVE TOWNS, The, 205 

flinTvS, for building, 135; Mining, 

FLOWERS, first, 83 
FOLKTfiN, ovvl-fiiced idols from, 

1-OREST, 172; Oarhoniferous, 61-5, 
795, 202; advance of after Ice 
Age, 98; pine, its spread after 
Ice Age, 152; deciduous, 153; 
clearance of, 158; clearance of by 
Anglo-Saxons, 188; final clear- 
ance of, 194; Arden, 194, 196; 

And red, 194; Dean, 170, 194; 

lapping, 194; New, 194; Scl- 

vvood, 194; Sherwood, 194; 

Windsor, 194 

FORTS, C.’cltic Iron Age, 171 
FOSSH.S, 27, 81; formation of, iq 
FREI'STONF, 1 10, 125-6 

(JABBRO, 21 

(;ault. So 
<;ai:i.ic LAN(a;A(;E, 170 

GHOLISTS, 26, 31 
<;iNK(;o, 77 
GLACl.vnoN, effects of, 97 
GLACIERS, 93 '7 
GLAS rONBURY, StOnC for, 122 

GOLD, 22, 196, 213; ornaments, 166; 
power of, t66 

(iONDW AN ALAND, 45"6, 56, 69, 7Q 

cough's cave, Cheddar, 150 

(;ramitans, 'I’hc, 56 

GHANTTE, 1 6, 21, 87, 92, 106, IO9; 

shap, 97; kerbs, 223 
GUAfTOLITES, 48-9, 51, 54, 67 
GREAT GLEN, 23, 55-6 
GREENSAND, 85; lowcr, 80 
(GRAVES, ROBERT, 161 -2 
GRIFFIN, THOMAS, tilc Worker, 124 
grimes’ graves, flint mines, 157; 

fertility shrine at, 158 
Gryphaea, 27, 72 

Hadrian’s wall, 177 




HAMPSTEAD, gravels at 87 
HARDY, THOMAS, 171, 237 
HEDGES, 104, 210 
HEKLA, Mt. 23 

HEROIC SOCTFTY, in Anglo-Saxofi 
Englant.1, 184 
HERRING, Cretaceous 81 
HTGHGATE, gravels, S7 
HIGHLANDS. Scottish, 31. 44, 80; 
settlement of in Neolithic period. 

HODI IKIN, J. E., 16 1 
HOLIDAYS, contrasted with holy 
days, 209 
HORSES, earliest, 90; herds of, 91 

norsEs OF parliament, 221; stone 
for, 1 18-19 
HOl.'SMAN. A. E., 53 

HCMBF.Ti, river, 94 

HTNSTANTON, 131; cliiTs at, lO, 80; 

suhmorged forest at, lo 


ICE AGE, The, 87, 89, 1 44 "5; 

Pleistocene, 93; elfect on country- 
side, 95 
ICHTHYOSA! K, 71, 74, 7S 

INDO-EUROPEANS, and Sky God, i6i 


INSECTS, 61, 83 
IRELAND, 56, 93 

IRON, introduced, 169; Age, 169- 
75; .smelted with coke, 202 
IRONBRIDGF. on Severn, 94, 203, 
ISLE OF MAN, 46^ 56 

ISLE OF WIGHT, 86, 9 1 



JONES, INIGO, 128, 130 

lUNO, her misplaced, 180 


JURASSIC, period, 28, 71, 75-6, 121; 
period, its inHuences on human 
settlement, 155; belt, 71-2, 75, 
105, 155; belt, building stones 
from. 1 27; belt, iron mines in, 170 
JUTES, invasion of, 183 

KAOLIN, 205 

KENTISH RAO, building stone, 131 
KEUPER, period, 70-1; rucks for 
building, 119-21 
KiMMERiDGE, clav, 74; shale, 74; 
money, 75 

king’s COLl.EGE, CAMBRIDGE, Stonc 
for C'hapel, 107; .stone for 
Bridge, n6 

LAKE DISTRICT, The, 56, 97; 

Norse settlement of, 189; scene 
in, 236 

1 AKES, Glacial, 94, 96; f lumber, 94; 
Lapworth, 94, 203; Pickering, 94 

I-AMMERMUIRS, 'I'hc, 54 
LAND’.S end, 21 
i.AXGt AGE, C eltic, 170, formation 
(/f English, 193 
7 -AVENHAM, buildings at, 137 
LAWRENCE, D. H., 4 I, 1 67, 1 75 
LEEDS, 204; town hull, Stone for, 
1 17 

LEGENDS, local, decay of, 200 
LEICESTER GAOL, stone for, I 17 
lemur:s, 91 

LIAS, 19, 27, 71, 74, 103, 105 


LIFE, emergence of, 34; Cambrian, 
48-9; plant, 54, 61, 83; sequence 

of, 174 

HMK.STUNE, 18-19; Mountain, 62, 
Mountain, for building, 1 14-17; 
Carboniferous, 65; Magnesian 
or Dolomite, 66; Magnesian, 
fur building, 118; Oolitic, 71, 
75 » 



II 7 

LOBSTER, 35 , 81 

LOCALI^', Special products, 143, 
destruction of, 215; and poets, 


LONDON, 174, 221; Roman, 182 
LONDON CLAY, 7, 84, QI, 222 
LONG MELIORD, building's at, 137 
LONGMYND, 46, 50, I I 1 
LOWLANDS, Scottish, 31, 56 
I^oxomnWy 64-5 

in, 179 

I, YELL, CHARI. 4 iS, 33 

MAESHOWE, Megalithic tomb at, 114 
MAGMA, 20 , 51 
MALVERN IlIl.LS, 23, 65 
MAMMALS, 37, 67; Cretaceous, 82; 
Eocene, 90 

MANCHESTER, 204; Exchange, stone 
for. 1 17; Tov/n Hal), stone for, 

MARBLES, for building, 116; see 
also Purbeck marble 
MEDITERRANEAN, The formation 
of, 85 

MENDIP HILLS, 53, 150 
MERCIA, 1 88 
MESOLITHIC, food gathcrcrs, 1 53“4; 

hunters, appearance of, 160 

MIDDLE EAST, rise of civilization, 


MIDLANDS, The English, 79, 210 
MILLER, HUGH, 58-9, 73, II3 
MILLSTONE GRIT, 62, 65, I06; for 
building, 114--17 
MiNERAiiJ, effect on population, 141 
Roman control of, 177 
MINING, coal, 196 

MOON, The, 12, 14 
MOORE, HENRY, IO2--5, 227 

»t, 95 

MOSASAURS, 82, 90 
MOTHER, The Great, 100, r58“63, 
IQ 7 , 210, 213, 226 
Upper, 70 

22, 24; Alpine, 23 -4, 85; Armori- 
can, 23-4, 65 

MOUNTAINS, effect on character, 


MOZART, W. A. 34“5 



NASH, PAUL, 226 
NAUTILUS, The, 28 
NEEDLES, The, 86 

NEOLITHIC PERIOD, I 54-60; pcoplcS, 
appearance of, 160 
NE\VCi\STLE TOWN HALL, Stone for, 


NEUTON, SIR ISAAC, 26'-9, 34-5 




NORMAN Architecture, 191- 2 

NORMANS, 190-2 

NORSEMEN, settlement of, 189 


NORTH TYNE, Roman bridge across, 


NORWAY, 56, 62; glaciers from, 97 

OLD STONE AGE, 1 45-5 2 
ORDOVICIAN, period, 32, 50; rocks 
for building, 1 1 1 
OUSE, Yorkshire, 94 
OXFORD, stone for buildings in, 124 

PACIFIC, The, 84 

PALAEOLITHIC, era, 66; hunters, 


from, 100 



PENNINES, The, 23, 65-6, 69. 97, 
230, 234; Mesolithic man on, 153 

PERMIAN ac;e, 66 
PETERHOUSE, Cambridge, stone for, 

PHARAOHS, 'Ilie, 7<), 83 
PICTS, matriarchal tradition among, 


PLACE-NAMES, earliest, 151; British 
and Anglo-Saxon, 187 
PLACENTA, The, 8 2-3, 214 
PLESlOSAlTt, 74, 78 
PLIOCENE PERIOD, 87, 89, 93 
POETS, 8, 237 

PORTLAND STONE, 72 , 76, II 8, 1 27; 

for building, i27'-30 
PORTSDOWN HrL 1 ..S, 86 
POSEIDON OCEAN, 45--6, 49-5O, 53, 


POTTERY, earliest, 158; mass pro- 
duction of, 205 


PRIMATES, The, 91-2 

PRIMROSE HILL, London, 7, 84, 221, 


PROCONSUL, manlike ape, 92 
PROUST, MARCEL, 34 ” 5 , 4I, 175 
PTERODACTYLS, 8l- 2 , 90 
PUGIN, A. \V. N,, I 18 
PURBECK, Isle of, 86; marble, 72. 

76; lagoon, 80 
PYRAMIDS, The, 79 

RED SANDSTONE, 1 8; Old, 58-9, 62, 

1 13; New, 66; New, for building, 

RENAISSANCE, architecture, 125, 
141; intellect, 197, 203 
REPTILES, 36, 67, 78, 8 1-2, 90 
RILKE, R. M,, 93 
RHINE, The, 89 

ROCHE ABBEY, quarries at, 107 
ROCKS, for building, 121-9; sedi- 
mentary, 19-21; sedimentary, for 
building, no; igneous or vol- 
canic, 20-1, 96, no; igneous, 
used for axes, 157; Cambrian, 

in; Pre-Cambrian, n 1 ; Ordovi- 
cian, for building, 111; CarV)oni- 
ferous, for building, 115-17 
ROMAN, period, 177-82; roads, 177; 
towns, 177-8; sculpture at 
Lullingstone, iSo-i; Province, 
collapse of, 182 

ROMSEY, 126; Abbey, stone for, 107 

ST. ALDHELM, of Malmcshury, 128; 

and box stone, 128 
ST. GEORGE’S CHAi‘EL, Windsor, 
stone for reredos, 120 

ST. KiLDA, 20; wrens of, 35 
ST. Paul’s cathedral, London, 
24, 196-7; stone for, 107, 

129-30, 221; earlier foundations, 

13 1 

SAi.LSBURY PI.AIN, 1 74; sai'sens on, 
132; importance of, 164 
.SAi.r, 69, 204 

sanctuaries, Bronze .\ge, 164 
SANDSTONE, 18- I9, 87 

SAXONS, inMision of, 183 
SAXONY, king of, 74 
SAXTON, chiustopher, liis atkis, 

.SCIENCE MUSEUM, London, 25 
.SCI LUES, The 21 

scoLT HEAD, bird sanctuary, Mr. 

Chesney, guardian, 136 
SCULPTURE, and stonc, loi 
SCOTLAND, i6f,; north-west, 46, 62; 

Southern Uplands of, 54-6 
SEA-LILIES, see Crinoids 
SEA-URCHINS, 52, 81; as sun- 

symbols, 52 

.SEDGl^WICK, HENRY, 32, 50, 53 
SEVERN, river, 94 

of England, 194; his country, 196 
for, 1 17 

SHREWS, tree, 91 

SILURIAN, period, 32, 53; rocks, 54 

SILVER, 196 



SKIDDAW, 46, 50 



SKV GOD, Tlie, lOO, 158, 161 
SKYE, Coolins, 86 

SLATES, for roofinj?, 111-12; 223; 
Cornish, 58 

SMITH, WILLIAM, 27, 30, 49, 206 

SNOWDON, 51, 80 

SPEECH, development of, 150 

SPONGES, 49, 81 

SPOONER, W. A. q6 

srANDARD OF LIVING, a new fetish, 



STATE, the centralized, 215 
SrONEHENGE, lOO, 164, 1 74; BluC 

Stones of, 107; sarsens for 
building', 132; its corruption, 133 

S rONESlTELD, i 24 
STRAND, 'rhe, London, 24 
SUSSEX WEALD, 30, 195; iron mines 
in, X70 

S W'ANSt. :OM HE MAN , 1 46 - 7 


•l AKSIERS, 37, 91 

TAYXTON, quarries at, 124 



TETHYS, 56, 65, 79, 84-5 

THAMES, d'he 9; Valley, 87 

THORNEV ABBEY, Stone for, 107, 126 

TIGER, sabre-toothed, 91 

TILES, Stoncsficld, 123 

TIN, 22 , 165, 169 

tin'iac;el, Rocky Valley, 88 

TOMusroNE, 100 


TOWNS, 206-10 

TRANSPORT, and the Industrial 
Revolution, 206; of building 
material, 106-8 

TREES: fern, 76, 83; maidenhair, 76, 
9L magnolia, 83; poplar, 

83; plane, 83; deciduous, 83, 91; 
Nipa palm, 91; plane, 91; beech, 
98; birch, 98; lime, 98; oak, 91, 
98; pine, 98; willow, 98 
TRENT, river, 94 

TRIBAL REGIONS, with their capitals, 

TRILOBITES, 35, 48, 5 1-2, 67 
TRINITY COLLEGE, Cambridge, stone 
for, 127, cobble in Great Court, 

Tyrannosaurus f 82, 203 

URBAN I ZATI ON , 2o6- 1 0 

VALE OF YORK, 72, 94; brick building 
in, 138 


Venus’s flower baskets, sponges, 


VESUVIUS, Mt.', 23 
VICTORIANS, The, 32, 1 1 5, 121 
VIKINGS, at jMaeshowe, 114 
VILLAS, Roman, 179 
Vh'iparuSy water-snail, 76 
VOLCANOES, 23-4, 86 

WALES, Highlands of, 80; South, 65; 
South-\Vest, 23, 50; North, 46, 
55; Central, 54; survival of 
Neolithic types in, 160; in 
Roman times, 178 
WATERLOO BRIDGE, London, stone 
of, 109 

W'ATT, JAMES, 1 98, 202 , 2 o 6 
w^EALDON, dome, 84-5 
W'ELLS CATHEDRAL, Stone for, 122 
WENSLEYDALE, building in, 1 15 
WHITEHALL, Banqueting Hall, stone 
for, 128 

WHITE TOWTiR, London, 192 
WICKLOW’ HILLS, gold from, i66 
WINDSOR CASTLE, chalk bclow, 86 





at Stonehenge, 133 
WREKIN, The, 50, 69 
WRITING, introduction of, 175 
Wutheiring Heights^ 233 

YEATS, W. B., 224 

YORKSHIRE, 23 1 ; cliff roses, 76; 
effects of glaciers in, 96; Dales, 
scene in, 233-4 
YOUNG, ARTHUR, 210 , 2 17 



srwi^PT 3R>R*ft, 5?^n>Mir 

Ld! Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration Library 

qf 5^1^ enft^ ?Rf? ^fr^r 1 1 

This book is to be returned on the date last stamped. 



C'ass No. 

3r^rfc?r ^tstrr 

Acc No. » { «■ 

Book No. 





National Academy of Administration 


Accession Na^ _ 

1. Books are Issued for 15 days only but 
may have to be recalled earlier If urgen- 
tly required. 

2. An over-due charge of 25 Raise per day 
per volume will be charged. 

3. Books may be renewed on request, at 
the discretion of the Librarian. 

4« Periodicals, Bare and Befrence books 
may not be issued and may be con- 
sulted only in the Library. 

5. Books lost, defaced or injured in any 
way shall have to be replaced or its 
double price shall be paid by the